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Nature-Based Tourism in Peripheral Areas: Development or Disaster?

Nature-Based Tourism in Peripheral Areas: Development or Disaster?

by C. Michael Hall, Stephen W. Boyd

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This book provides one of the first detailed examinations of the problems of nature-based tourism development in peripheral areas. A diverse range of environments is used to illustrate the challenges and difficulties of managing nature-based tourism resources. A central theme throughout the book is the degree of opportunity that nature-based tourism provides as the


This book provides one of the first detailed examinations of the problems of nature-based tourism development in peripheral areas. A diverse range of environments is used to illustrate the challenges and difficulties of managing nature-based tourism resources. A central theme throughout the book is the degree of opportunity that nature-based tourism provides as the basis for peripheral region development.

Editorial Reviews

University of New England in Journal of Sustainabl Jim Walmsley
The book makes a major contribution to developing understanding of the potential scope for tourism development in social and economic growth. This is a very good book that deserves to be widely used in tertiary level tourism courses.

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Channel View Publications
Publication date:
Aspects of Tourism , #21
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Nature-based Tourism in Peripheral Areas Development or Disaster?

By C. Michael Hall, Stephen Boyd

Multilingual Matters

Copyright © 2005 C. Michael Hall and Stephen Boyd and the authors of individual chapters
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-84541-320-0


Nature-based Tourism in Peripheral Areas: Introduction


Nature-based tourism is undoubtedly one of the most significant areas of research in tourism studies today. Nature-based tourism includes tourism in natural settings (e.g. adventure tourism), tourism that focuses on specific elements of the natural environment (e.g. safari and wildlife tourism, nature tourism, marine tourism), and tourism that is developed in order to conserve or protect natural areas (e.g. ecotourism, national parks). Drawing upon the landscape and environment traditions within geography in particular, as well as broader environmental studies in the social and physical sciences, nature-based tourism research has grown to include not only discussions of the complex relationships between tourism and the physical environment in rural and natural areas but also social, economic and political relations (e.g. Cater & Lowman, 1994; Hall & Johnston, 1995; Butler & Boyd, 2000; Holden, 2000; Newsome et al., 2002). Undoubtedly, much research has also focused on ecotourism as a subset of nature-based tourism (e.g. Fennell, 1999; Weaver, 2001). Indeed, the development of specialist journals such as the Journal of Ecotourism and the Journal of Tourism in Marine Environments is testimony to the amount of research being undertaken in this field. So what then can yet another book add to what might appear to be an already congested field?

Despite the growth of research and publications on tourism in natural areas, our understanding of the role and effects of tourism in natural areas is surprisingly limited. Arguably, the majority of studies have examined the impacts of tourism and recreation on a particular environment or component of the environment rather than over a range of environments. There is substantial research undertaken on tourism with respect to rainforest, reefs and dolphins and whales for example, and very limited research undertaken on what are arguably less attractive environments, such as deserts, or animals such as warthogs, even though they may also be part of wildlife viewing tourism. This is not to deny that research or particular environments or species are unimportant, rather it is to highlight the huge gaps that exist in our knowledge of tourism. But perhaps most importantly, nature-based tourism needs to be seen within the broader natural, socio-cultural, political and economic systems within which it is embedded and which determine its development.

Therefore, this book seeks to contribute to our understanding of nature-based tourism in what is the main environment in which it occurs, namely that of peripheral areas, and the issues that arise out of specific natural resources being utilised for the development of tourism for what are primarily economic reasons. Importantly, this book explicitly takes the position that regional development through tourism is established not only by the stock of its human-made capital (e.g. transport and energy infrastructure, housing, production of goods), or of its natural capital (wilderness, natural resources, national parks, green space, high value species), but also by its human capital (professional skill, training, individual knowledge, education) and social capital (subjects' ability to coordinate their own actions and choices in view of common goals) (Ostrom, 1990; Fukuyama, 1995). Human and social capital, therefore, become critical requirements for sustainable nature-based tourism development as they are not the consequence of development, but rather its prerequisite. A region is rich if it has human capital and social capital because these are the means by which other forms of capital are produced and specific aspects of the natural environment turned into tourism resources. Nevertheless, the relative absence of human and social capital also becomes one of the development challenges of many peripheral areas.

Peripheral areas are characterised by a number of interrelated features that impact on the development of nature-based tourism, as well as other industry sectors (Botterill et al., 1997; Buhalis, 1997; Hall & Jenkins, 1998; Jenkins et al., 1998):

(1) Peripheral areas tend to lack effective political and economic control over major decisions affecting their well-being. They are particularly susceptible to the impacts of economic globalisation and restructuring through the removal of tariffs and the development of free-trade regimes (Jenkins et al., 1998). In addition, the political and economic decisions made by corporations whose headquarters lie elsewhere and political institutions in the capital or at the supranational level may lead to a situation where 'organisations and individuals within the periphery often feel a sense of alienation, a feeling of governance from afar and a lack of control over their own destiny' (Botterill et al., 1997: 3).

(2) Peripheral areas, by definition, are geographically remote from mass markets. This not only implies increased transportation costs to and from the core areas but may also increase communication costs with suppliers and the market as well.

(3) Internal economic linkages tend to be weaker at the periphery than at the core thereby potentially limiting the ability to achieve high multiplier effects because of the substantial degree of importation of goods and services (Archer, 1989).

(4) In contemporary society migration flows tend to be from the periphery to the core. This is a major issue for many peripheral and rural regions because of the impact that this can have not only on the absolute population of a given area but its profile as well. For example, migration outflows tend to be younger people looking for improved employment and education opportunities for both themselves and/or their children. The loss of younger members of communities can then have flow-on effects in terms of school closures thereby further reinforcing such a vicious cycle of out-migration. In addition, out-migration can also lead to a loss of intellectual and social capital. However, for some peripheral areas new forms of in-migration may occur with respect to retirement and second home development, although this will tend to be with respect to older age groups. In some situations, although such developments may inject economic and human capital into peripheral areas, it may also place further strain on health and social services (Hall & Müller, 2004). As Troughton (1990: 25) noted with respect to the Canadian situation:

In many areas, even of viable agriculture, villages and towns are stagnating or in decline due to losses of populations, and, in turn, of basic functions such as transportation links, schools, doctors, and churches, as well as rural industry. The situation is generally worst in physically poor and/or isolated 'marginal' areas, where outmigration has been highest and dependency in all senses is most pronounced. The only exception is in the ruralurban fringe zone, close to urban centres, where repopulation by exurbanites is universal.

(5) Botterill et al. (1997) have argued that peripheries tend to be characterised by a comparative lack of innovation as new products tend to be imported rather than developed locally.

(6) Because of the economic difficulties experienced by peripheral regions, the national and local state may have greater interventionist role than in core regions (Hall & Jenkins, 1998). This is illustrated through the establishment of local economic development agencies, the development of special grant schemes for peripheral areas as in the case of the European Union, and/or agricultural subsidy programmes (Jenkins et al., 1998).

(7) Information flows within the periphery and from the periphery to the core are weaker than those from the core to the periphery (Botterill et al., 1997). Such information flows may have implications for political and economic decision-making undertaken in core regions as well as broader perceptions of place given the difficulties that may exist in changing existing images of the periphery (Hall, 1997).

(8) Peripheral regions often retain high aesthetic amenity values because of being relatively underdeveloped in relation to core areas. Such high natural values may not only serve as a basis for the development of nature-based tourism but may also be significant for other types of tourism and leisure developments, such as those associated with vacation homes (Hall & Müller, 2004). 'Ironically, the very consequences of lack of development, the unspoilt character of the landscape and distinctive local cultures, become positive resources as far as tourism is concerned' (Duffield & Long, 1981: 409).

Arguably, the peripheral nature of many of the areas in which nature-based tourism occurs is surprisingly not often explicitly recognised in many studies of nature-based tourism. Instead, we argue it is an important, if not essential, dimension of tourism in natural areas. Although it may sound something of a tautology to note that nature-based tourism tends to occur in areas with high natural values, it does serve to highlight the extent to which nature-based tourism tends to occur away from urban areas. Naturalness is a concept that has aesthetic and biophysical dimensions. Naturalness is a relative concept that may be quantified in terms of factors such as, for example, the extent of non-indigenous plant and animal species. Naturalness, sometimes also termed primitiveness, has played an important part in the developed of better understanding of the associated concepts such as wilderness, particularly with respect to the conduct of wilderness inventories (Lesslie & Taylor, 1983, 1985). Another concept that has also been utilised in evaluating the relative qualities of natural environments is that of remoteness from human settlement and access points such as roads (Helburn, 1977). Remoteness can be measured in terms of various dimensions of distance such as Euclidean distance or time distance. The concepts of naturalness and remoteness may therefore be combined to provide a two dimensional continuum approach to identifying remote areas with high natural values that are usually termed as wilderness (Figure 1.1) (Hall, 1992; Hall & Page, 2002).

Such a continuum approach can be further expanded to highlight the key elements of nature-based tourism in peripheral areas (Figure 1.2). Three dimensions are identified: naturalness, accessibility and trip numbers. The concept of naturalness has been discussed above. Accessibility is used as an equivalent term for remoteness, but it is argued that it better conveys the significance of connectivity between trip generation and destination that comprises the travel experience. As Gould (1969: 64) recognised, 'Accessibility is ... a slippery notion ... one of those common terms that everyone uses until faced with the problem of defining and measuring it'. Accessibility has both a social dimension and a physical dimension. The social dimension refers to the sociocultural sanctions that surround travel as well as the legal ability to travel. Physical accessibility refers to 'the ability of people to reach destinations at which they can carry out a given activity' (Mitchell & Town, 1976: 3) and 'the inherent characteristic, or advantage, of a place with respect to overcoming some form of spatially operating source of friction, for example time and /or distance' (Ingram, 1971: 101). Figure 1.2 primarily uses the concept of accessibility in physical terms although the social dimensions of travel clearly also underlies people's ability to move. The final dimension, that of trip numbers, recognises that there is a distant decay effect with respect to the number of trips undertaken from a central point whether this be at the level of individuals (i.e. from 'home') or a collective point such as a cosmopolitan area or urban centre.

Several important issues emerge from Figure 1.2 that highlight the difficulties of developing nature-based tourism in peripheral areas. First, given that naturalness is by definition determined in part by the level of human settlement and impact, to increase numbers of visitors may therefore reduce the natural qualities that attracted visitors in the first place. Second, the improvement of access, so important a role for tourism and overall economic development, may also potentially result in the loss of natural values. Third, and as a result of the first two observations, nature-based tourism in peripheral areas therefore has a difficult balancing act between achieving regional development objectives and retaining high levels of naturalness, if these are regarded as significant values to maintain. Moreover, the figure also highlights the relative nature of the peripheral area concept. Significant changes in access to main urban centres can serve to substantially redefine the perceived peripherality of locations. Such changes can occur through changes in transport technology, the development of new transport gateways (e.g. shipping ports and airports) as well as new or improved transport infrastructure (e.g. new railways or roads, or upgrading of rail and roadways). More than ever therefore nature-based tourism in peripheral areas needs to be seen within the context of the wider regional development objectives and management strategies of the areas in which such tourism development occurs.

Tourism and Regional Development in Peripheral Areas

Tourism has long been utilised as a mechanism for regional development. There is a longstanding, widespread, but arguably erroneous perception that tourism offers salvation from local economic crises (e.g. Clout, 1972). Indeed, optimism over the potential employment and economic benefits of tourism 'owes much to a policy climate that has been uncritical over a range of issues' (Hudson & Townsend, 1992: 50). According to Hall and Jenkins (1998) this is not surprising because few strong theories, concepts or studies exist to guide the sustainable long-term development, role and management of tourism in rural and peripheral areas. Indeed cautionary comments regarding tourism development in peripheral areas have existed for almost as long as government has promoted tourism development. For example, as Baum and Moore observed in the United States in the 1960s:

there are and there will be increasing opportunities for recreation [and tourism] development, but this industry should not be considered to be a panacea for the longstanding problems of substantial and persistent unemployment and underemployment besetting low-income rural areas ... The successful development of a particular recreational [and tourism] enterprise or complex of enterprises requires the same economic considerations as the planning and development of economic activities in other sectors. (Baum & Moore, 1966: 5)

Similarly, as the Canadian Council on Rural Development (1975: 5) reported:

Tourism and recreation demands for rural resources can provide income and employment opportunities for rural people and therefore assist in a 'stay' option for those who prefer rural living. The supply and demand relationship however remains a controlling factor underlining that tourism and recreation are not a panacea to the economic problems of depressed areas but that they can be an important supplement to existing economic activities ... benefits are likely to accrue only to those with the necessary imagination, managerial skills and financial capability. Other factors identified which determine the degree to which rural communities can be expected to benefit from tourism and recreation are: the diversity of recreational facilities available; accessibility to markets; and the retainment locally of tourist expenditures.

Nevertheless, such observations remain in the minority with respect to local and central government's enthusiasm for tourism development in peripheral areas (Hall & Jenkins, 1998; Jenkins et al., 1998). However, many of the expectations for long-term economic development generated by government support for tourism in peripheral areas have often failed to come to fruition. Several reasons can be posited for this. Perhaps most importantly is the tendency by both government development agencies and tourism researchers to fail to see tourism within the larger development context. Most significantly, while recent government programmes have sought to address peripheral problems and imbalances by way of local and/or regional tourism development programmes; simultaneously, many governments have adopted restrictionist economic policies, which have compounded the difficulties of peripheral areas adjusting to economic and social restructuring (e.g. by way of centralisation of health and transport services). In such instances policy makers appear to be struggling with national versus local priorities (e.g. the restructuring and deregulation of agriculture and other industries versus subsidy provision), a point that also raises the issue of conflict in the values and objectives of the nation state as opposed to the local state (Jenkins et al., 1998).


Excerpted from Nature-based Tourism in Peripheral Areas Development or Disaster? by C. Michael Hall, Stephen Boyd. Copyright © 2005 C. Michael Hall and Stephen Boyd and the authors of individual chapters. Excerpted by permission of Multilingual Matters.
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Meet the Author

C. Michael Hall is Professor of Tourism at the University of Otago, New Zealand and Honorary Professor, University of Stirling, Scotland. He is also co-editor of Current Issues in Tourism and has written widely on tourism, environmental history and contemporary mobility issues.

Stephen Boyd, previously at the University of Otago, New Zealand,  is now Professor of Tourism in the School of Hotel, Leisure and Tourism, at the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland. His research interests include heritage, communities, partnership, planning and management. His most recent co-authored book is Heritage Tourism.

C. Michael Hall is Professor in the Department of Management, Marketing and Entrepreneurship at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. His key research interests are sustainable tourism, tourism planning and policy, global environmental change and urban planning.

Stephen W. Boyd is Professor of Tourism, Masters Degree Coordinator and Research Coordinator in the Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management, University of Ulster, UK. His research focuses on trails, heritage, national parks, niche tourism development and post-conflict environments.

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