Date of Award

5-2008

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Forest Resources

Advisor

Jessica Leahy

Second Committee Member

Mae Davenport

Third Committee Member

Harold Daniel

Abstract

This thesis presents the findings of a qualitative study of Forest-based Entrepreneurial Tourism Enterprises (FBETEs) in and around the Northern Forest Region, which includes the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with FBETE owners in the summer of 2007. FBETEs are a specific type of micro-tourism enterprise or family owned business in the nature-based tourism arena. The purpose of research was to gain a foundational understanding of these enterprises in order enlighten researchers, policy-makers, extension agents, forestry professionals, tourism planners, and potential FBETE owners. Specific aims of research were to assess the characteristics, motivations and goals of owners, to determine risks and challenges encountered in the business, to ascertain benefits obtained from the business, and to elucidate owner's views of success. FBETE owners were typically in their late 40s and were life-long residents of their perspective states. The personality characteristics that were reported as being helpful in operating the businesses centered on three trait themes: drive, sociability, and innovativeness. Participants were also found to be committed to environmental sustainability. Several motivations for starting an FBETE arose from this research. Prevalent motivations were personal interests or hobbies, a desire to share knowledge or experience, borrowed or creative visions, and to obtain a preferred lifestyle and reconnect with land. Commonly cited initial goals of FBETEs included to educate the public, to reconnect the public with nature, and to increase visitation to the business. Risks encountered at business start-up were typically related to financial issues. When FBETE owners were asked about challenges that had encountered in their business, several themes arose. Those most frequently stated included competition, lack of community support, insufficient training - especially marketing, and significant time and energy investments. Benefits that micro-tourism enterprise owners obtain have been notably overlooked in previous literature. This thesis provides novel insights into owner derived benefits. Those often mentioned include customer appreciation, personal enjoyment and satisfaction, working at home, and meeting new people. Notably, all FBETE owners measured success through personal happiness and satisfaction. Approximately half of the participants coupled this sentiment with the need to make enough money to keep the business going. All FBETEs felt that they were successful. Future goals for owners included improving the business and becoming sustainable. Lastly, the main end results predicted for businesses were to pass on to the next generation and to retire. Recommendations resulting from this study include increasing community support of FBETEs to assist in the stimulation of rural economies. Also, tourism planners can help FBETEs by marketing them on government tourism websites and by supporting rural entrepreneurial development policies. Extension agents and forestry professionals should offer courses on financial planning, technology, and marketing to FBETEs as well as developing an educational website. Further, they should illuminate the information found in this thesis to potential FBETE owners.

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