Thesis Title

The Economic Feasibility Of Implementing Ecotourism Within A Rural Community


Cathy Klein

Date of Graduation

Fall 2000


Master of Science in Geospatial Sciences


Geography, Geology, and Planning

Committee Chair

Dimitri Ioannides


There are different types of tourism that have developed over time, varying in degree from less sustainable mass tourism to more sustainable alternative tourism. This study focuses on the economic feasibility of one type of sustainable tourism, "ecotourism," within Newton County, a small, rural county in Arkansas. The economic, environmental and sociocultural impacts of ecotourism will be explored in regards to Ozark Ecotours -- a nature/adventure tourism program instituted by the Newton County Resource Council (NCRC) in 1994. The ultimate goal of Ozark Ecotours is to achieve sustainable tourism development in Newton County by describing key situational factors, including a preliminary assessment of the environmental and social impact of existing and projected ecotourism, and by using a management plan that is clearly defined. The objectives of this study are: 1) to determine if alternative forms of tourism, specifically ecotourism, can be a viable sustainable development option which promotes economic growth for a rural community like Newton County, Arkansas; 2) to propose that using an alternative form of tourism can reduce the harmful environmental and sociocultural effects that mass tourism experiences by contrast; 3) to present a working definition of ecotourism that contains the attributes inherent within this type of tourism; 4) to create a management plan that will aid in the implementation of effective planning and management, and preserve the environmental and cultural aspects of a host community; and 5) finally, to present techniques for monitoring and evaluating sustainable tourism development. The NCRC conducted a market survey (assisted by the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism) for a feasibility study to collect information that would aid in creating a demographic profile of a potential ecotourist and to assess the current and potential market. The survey findings determined the average age, education, vocation, and also rated interests among the market of ecotourists. As far as the environmental and sociocultural impacts were concerned, the feasibility study suggested these could be evaluated through the Ozark Ecotours Site Monitoring Project. The economic benefits have the potential to increase overall commerce, to promote employment, and increase spending in local retail and service sectors of the host population. However, these economic benefits will only occur at very low levels due to the operational costs per ecotourist that Ozark Ecotours currently has to bear.

Subject Categories

Regional Economics | Tourism


© Cathy Klein