Team Studies Impact of Tourism
David Snepenger, PhD, is a professor of Marketing at MSU s College of Business. He has spent the last ten years researching the impact of tourism on retail shopping areas in popular vacation destinations in the west and has incorporated his research into the classroom. Three of his students, Leann Murphy, Ryan O Connell, and Eric Gregg, all now graduates of the College, honed their marketing research skills on this project. The study was partially funded by the Undergraduate Scholars Program at Montana State University. The following is an excerpt from the study.
Recent reports from the 2000 census indicate changing cultures in the rural west. Most of the counties in the rural west still have economies based on agriculture, ranching, timber and mining; but in other areas the economies have moved to tourism, recreation and retirement as primary industries. Montana is a good example of a state where there are pockets of new development focusing on leisure around the two national parks, national forests and other natural resource amenities such as ski areas and trout streams. Demographers have labeled the traditional areas as cowboy counties and the emergent areas as cappuccino counties. The three most prominent communities in the west exhibiting the new economy are Bend, Oregon; Park City, Utah; and Bozeman, Montana. In cappuccino counties, traditional central shopping districts flourish with art galleries, cafes, quaint bookstores, and boutiques. Dr. Snepenger and his students have been studying this trend over the past ten years in Bozeman s downtown. They have observed that much of the downtown architecture has been preserved as retailers have targeted tourists, retirees, and other affluent residents. Yet at the same time, this vibrant shopping district no longer serves as the heart of Bozeman's culture for many long-time residents.
Products and services offered in downtown Bozeman do not reflect the economic realities of many working and middle class Bozemanites. Consequently, some residents find that this tourism-impacted shopping space does not reflect their life styles or incomes. Often the merchandise offered by downtown merchants reflects upscale outdoor recreation tastes or it epitomizes many symbols of the old West exhibited by sculpture, paintings, and clothing.
Each time residents or tourists make a purchase downtown; they are helping to shape the image of that area. Similarly, tourists and residents flavor the downtown as they spend time there socializing or participating in community events. Thus, the downtown area provides an interesting laboratory for observing how communities change as leisure and tourism grow in importance in an area.
In contemporary America, shopping is the most popular activity people do while on vacation. Critics of contemporary culture have asserted that shopping is the most revealing activity for defining a person s lifestyle. This fact is very important to rural communities in Montana where there are approximately ten tourists to every one resident. Retail shopping districts throughout the state are reflecting the economic realities of tourism development.
In addition to Bozeman, tourism-impacted communities within Montana include Red Lodge, Kalispell, Big Fork, and Hamilton. Dr. Snepenger has developed a life cycle model that characterizes how traditional shopping districts change over time due to tourism development. Figure 1 displays the Downtown Tourism Life Cycle Model. This model suggests that community residents can benefit from tourism development as long as tourism does not dominate the local economy.
Tourism adds to the flavor of the local culture and can help bolster the core retail shopping area because of the dollars tourists spend and their eclectic preferences for products and services. And on one point, all who participated in Dr. Snepenger's research agree: tourism is an important aspect of the local economy.