Community Dividend

Results of tourism development are largely positive, study says

Published November 1, 2005  | November 2005 issue

Development of recreation and tourism in rural counties yields mainly positive results, according to a new study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service (ERS).

ERS researchers set out to examine whether the tourism industry strengthens and diversifies rural economies or lowers living standards by generating low-skill, low-wage jobs. They analyzed socioeconomic data and trends for 311 rural counties that they deemed recreation-dependent,or as having a certain percentage of local income, employment and housing directly attributable to tourism and recreation. The studied counties are located in 43 different states, but are concentrated in the West, the Upper Great Lakes region and the Northeast.

The findings, detailed in the report Recreation, Tourism and Well-Being, indicate that the effects of tourism development are positive overall. The study found that recreation and tourism development increases employment rates, earnings and educational attainment while decreasing poverty rates. However, results varied according to the type of tourism offered. For example, counties located in ski areas fared better than those that offered less profitable forms of recreation. The ERS researchers found that housing costs do increase with development, but not enough to offset increases in income. In addition, they found little evidence of increased traffic congestion in recreation-dependent counties.

To access the report, visit