The economic geography of the tourist industry by U.S. metropolitan area: a supply-side analysis

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Omer Abdalla Omer (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Keith Debbage

Abstract: The research in this dissertation articulates the economic geography of the tourist industry in the United States by metropolitan statistical area (MSA) from a supply-side perspective. It examines the complex economic mix of the tourism production system by employment patterns, number of establishments, and wages. One of the key purposes of this dissertation is to analyze the intense geographical concentration that underlies the tourist industry and to identify the typologies of metropolitan-based economies that explain much of the clusters. A key hypothesis is that, although the tourism direct providers (e.g. hotels, airlines, etc.) attract more attention in the tourism geography literature than tourism supply service industries (e.g. food and drinking services, performing arts, etc.), that a broad economic equivalence exists between these macro-sectors in terms of number of jobs and establishments by MSA. Overall, it is hypothesized that the tourism production system is largely shaped by the logic of agglomeration theory and that metropolitan area economies that experience high levels of specialization as expressed by elevated tourism-related market shares in terms of jobs and establishments, will also generate a higher overall tourism average wage. Another purpose of this dissertation was to examine the overall impact of tourism specialization on quality of life scores as indicated by per capita income, percent of population with college degrees, and population growth rates. Furthermore, the dissertation examined whether metropolitan area economies that attract disproportionately high levels of tourism market share in terms of employment also attract disproportionate creative class employment based on Florida's (2002) definition. The overall analysis revealed that a broad economic equivalency in terms of number of jobs and number of establishments exists between tourism direct providers (e.g., air transportation and hotels) and the tourism supporting services (e.g., restaurants, performing arts, and sports). Additionally, the findings highlighted an acute geographic concentration of the tourism production system. The top ten MSAs in terms of employment market share accounted for 40% of all tourism jobs. The analysis also revealed that four major tourism MSA typologies existed including casino-based, coastal resort, retirement resorts, and natural resource gateway metropolitan areas. The findings further revealed that tourism average wages varied by MSA and they were highly influenced by the level of tourism concentration and specialization partly due to an economies of scale and agglomeration effect. The analysis supported the notion that the tourism industry's overall impact on various quality of life indicators was largely random, suggesting that the general notion that tourism can be a panacea for an urban economies' ill needs to be re-evaluated and questioned. The analysis also showed that a random relationship existed between tourism employment levels and the percent creative class employment contrary to much of the literature. Additionally, the analysis also suggested that a statistically significant correlation existed between percent creative class employment and cultural tourism employment (e.g., performing arts, spectator sports etc.) Suggesting that targeting culturally-oriented tourism amenities may be a more effective strategy to attract the creative class. Data sets for the dissertation came from different sources including: The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and The Census Bureau. The North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) methodology was used to quantify the tourist industry from a supply side perspective.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2010
Creative Class, Cultural Tourism, Growth Poles, Tourism Clusters, Tourism Supply-Side, Urban Tourism
Supply-side economics.
Economic geography.
Metropolitan areas.
Cities and towns.
Tourism and city planning.
Tourism $x Government policy.
Culture and tourism.
Heritage tourism.
Creative ability $x Economic aspects.
Quality of life.

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