Tourism and community perceptions : an examination of Mount St. Helens' tourism as perceived by local residents Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/cf95jh35v

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  • Since the eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 18,1980, the rural communities within its shadow have experienced tremendous change. Tourism has become a highly visible and somewhat controversial component of change in the region, and its importance to local economies has increased. As a result of increased tourism development in these small communities conflict and competition for available resources, goods and services has steadily increased. Thus, management agencies and development planners have become increasingly concerned with attitudes and overall receptiveness of host populations toward further tourism development. Since its eruption Mount St. Helens has attracted millions of tourists to southwest Washington State. County, state and federal governments have spent millions of dollars in developing the region for tourism. The seasonal influx of visitors has a tremendous physical, economic and social impact upon the rural timber communities which neighbor the volcano. Communities which once catered to the needs of hunters, fishermen and other outdoor recreationists, are scrambling to satisfy the demands of tourists seeking to view the devastation. This research was designed to measure the attitudes and perceptions of those residents living in the rural communities near the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument toward tourism. Perceptions of the volcanic hazards associated with living near a volcano and the influence of those hazards on tourism were also surveyed. The research utilized informal interviews and a comprehensive questionnaire to develop a body of original data on resident perception of tourism's impact on their community. As the case study areas for this investigation, three communities located along the primary highways entering the monument were selected. Excluding differences in population, these unincorporated communities share similar economies, social attributes and physical characteristics. Questionnaires were mailed to over 1,000 households within the three communities. A combined response rate of 53% was achieved using the Diliman's Total Design Method (TDM). A variety of statistical techniques, including item analysis, rank score, chi-square and factor analysis, were used to analyze the data. Perhaps the single most important finding from the study was the general prevalence of positive attitudes toward tourism in all three communities. These optimistic attitudes were attributed to the nascent stage of tourism development coinciding with decades of exposure to recreationists and nature seeking tourists. A correlation between the residents' age and their perception of tourism was also identified. Tolerance levels varied from community to community. Attitudes and perceptions of tourism were most optimistic among the older residents. Cultural exchange between residents and tourists, and other economic rewards were the most predominant tourism benefits identified by respondents. Tourism was blamed for increased congestion on local highways and overcrowding in stores, restaurants and community parks. Future tourism development appears to be inevitable, and in some instances even desirable within the study communities. Due to the frequency of contact between residents and tourists, tourism planners, managers and public officials need to recognize the perceptions and attitudes of local residents, and incorporate them into regional development plans and management policies if tourism is to be successful.
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