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Regional Tourism Networks and Social-Environmental Wellbeing in Rural Coastal Communities

Lead Researcher and Department
Dr. Mark C.J. Stoddart, Sociology

Collaborators and Students
Howard Ramos, Sociology & Social Anthropology, Dalhousie University (Co-Investigator); Kelly Vodden, Environmental Studies, Grenfell Campus, Memorial University (Co-Investigator); Trevor Bungay, Department of Business, Tourism, Culture, and Rural Development (Non-Academic Partner); Mark Lamswood, Western Newfoundland Destination Management Organization (Non-Academic Partner); Randy Letto, Destination Labrador (Non-Academic Partner); Anne Marceau (Non-Academic Partner); Jamie Pye, Department of Business, Tourism, Culture, and Rural Development (Non-Academic Partner); Joan Simmonds, Great Northern Peninsula Heritage Network (Non-Academic Partner).

Funding Resources
Harris Centre Applied Research Fund

Summary
Tourism development brings economic, social and cultural benefits to rural coastal communities, including employment, skills development and community embeddedness, the preservation of tangible and intangible heritage, the protection of local environments, and a stronger sense of community identity and pride. However, it also comes with challenges and barriers that potential host communities need to address in order to successfully connect local places to global networks of tourism mobility. A key challenge for host communities is the ability to build strong social networks to maximize the potential for tourism development which in turn contributes to the social-ecological wellbeing of rural coastal communities. Strong regional tourism networks must include both internal and external connections to provide coordination and cohesiveness but also innovation, adaption and market reach. Yet, emerging tourism regions such as the Burin Peninsula, Northern Peninsula (north of Gros Morne), and Labrador Straits face significant barriers in establishing and maintaining such networks.

To help address this problem, this project will answer the following research questions:

1. How do tourism operators interpret the potential of tourism development to contribute to the social-ecological viability of rural coastal communities?
2. What factors facilitate participation by tourism operators in building regional tourism networks?
3. What are the barriers for tourism operators to participating in regional tourism networks?
4. How can these barriers be reduced to facilitate participation in regional tourism networks?

We will answer these questions through a regional comparison of the Burin Peninsula, Northern Peninsula, and Labrador Straits (as relatively "emergent" tourism regions), and the Bonne Bay region of Gros Morne National Park (as a relatively "established" tourism region). Data collection will focus on local and regional tourism stakeholders' perceptions of the benefit and challenges tourism development. We will analyze these perceptions to see what role social network connections play in fostering the development of the industry and innovation of practices. For example, if the Bonne Bay communities have stronger network connections, is this part of their success as a more established tourism region? Does their interpretation of the potential for tourism influence their networks? In regions with weaker network ties, we will better understand whether this is the result of conflictual relationships, absence of relationships, or other factors leading to these dynamics (e.g. distance, technology adoption etc.). By exploring these issues, our research will help us better understand how tourism development can be pursued to best contribute to the social-environmental wellbeing of coastal, rural communities.

Dates
2015-2016

Locations
Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
Burin Peninsula
Bonne Bay
St. Anthony - Port au Choix
Zone 5 - Labrador Straits

Industry Sectors
Tourism (Public administration — Federal government public administration — Other federal government public administration)
Sociological research and development (Professional, scientific and technical services — Scientific research and development services — Research and development in the social sciences and humanities)

Thematic Categories
Environment and Conservation
Rural Development
Tourism and Recreation

Departments
Sociology, Faculty of Arts (STJ)