Tourism Development in Small Midwestern Towns: a Case Study of Eight Communities in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri

Date of Graduation

Summer 1996


Master of Science in Geospatial Sciences


Geography, Geology, and Planning

Committee Chair

Dimitri Ioannides


This thesis examines methods by which states and small towns attempt to enhance economic development through tourism. It argues that recent changes to the global economy have often been detrimental to towns and rural areas. Tourism offers a viable option for local leaders to reverse these changing economic trends. The study region involves eight small towns in the tri-state region of Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri. This area is the northwest boundary region of the Ozark Plateau. Materials were gathered from each state, various statistical sources and personal interviews with local tourism bureaus. The methodology employed a thirteen-point categorization. Each town was ranked either mature, intermediate or developing in terms of tourism attraction practices, capabilities or needs of enhancement. The rank system reduces biased comparison of towns of variable size and nonstandard data collection sources from three states. Each state tourism agency is concentrating tourism development efforts toward advertising and marketing cooperatives available to local or regional agencies. Lack of standardized data reporting for tourism impacts shows an inherent problem of tourism research. Despite data shortcomings, the methodology highlights planning directions recommended to increase local tourism trade. It argues that regional tourism success determines levels of state support and amount of importance civic leaders place on the tourist industry. The primary research questions ask what different strategies towns use to enhance tourism potential. The hypothesis stated tourism development levels for towns depend upon the types of promotions and spending levels. This thesis proves the hypothesis correct by recognizing priorities and capacities of promotional activity exhibited by each category of towns. This thesis concludes with specific planning recommendations for the states and towns. Additional suggestions for future research include expansion of the study area to sixteen towns and the state of Arkansas, contiguous to this study region.

Subject Categories

Earth Sciences


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