- Ecotourism in Appalachia: Marketing the Mountains
The subtitle of this book, "Marketing the Mountains," highlights the crux of tourism in Appalachia and elsewhere: it is fundamentally a consumer-based industry that seeks always to increase its market size in order to generate economic growth and expansion. How this is managed, and to what effect, largely defines the financial outcomes of tourism in a place as well as its social or environmental impacts. The management approach in turn reflects tourism policy, which itself drives the wide-ranging forms of tourism evident today—from hyper-consumption mass tourism to smallscale, alternative travel modes offering at least the possibility of more equitable and environmentally benign commerce. This book tackles the inherent dilemmas of tourism by examining the role of a specialized form of the latter—ecotourism—in the economic and social development of the southern highlands of Appalachia.
It is worth considering first the approach of the book. The authors are not academic types. One is a professional writer and the other is an environmental activist. They both care deeply about life in Appalachia, where they both reside. And their concerns transcend the special case of tourism to consider sustainable living in general. In consequence, the book is far ranging—both in terms of issues and geography—almost, but not quite, to the point of eclecticism, of practical merit, advocacy-based and prescriptive, and often stridently imbedded in the personalities of theauthors. It is also well written, lucid, critical, and informative. The book is engaging and enjoyable to read, and provocative in the sense that the authors seek to both inform readers and provoke critical reflection and action among travelers and agents of tourism development.
Perhaps the best way to capture the outlook of the book is to engage first in the authors' struggle to define the term "ecotourism." They devote the book's introduction as well as much of chapter four ("Going Green") to an explication of the term, considering a slew of alternative definitions of ecotourism and probing into its practical and theoretical place within tourism studies and practice. They settle finally on the idea of ecotourism as beneficial travel to natural areas, wherein local communities, the environment and the traveler all gain tangible outcomes (e.g., income, preservation, education). In the authors' view, ecotourism requires certain management protocols and excludes many activities, such as off-road vehicles and house boating, otherwise deemed "touristic" by the tourism industry, its policy-makers and entrepreneurs. It is their self-appointed task to make sense of ecotourism in the context of Appalachia, and to come up with a framework for sustainable tourism policy in the mountains. This brings me back to the book's subtitle: "Marketing the Mountains." I imagined at first that it simply reflected the critical perspective of the authors and provided a nice alliterative counterpoint [End Page 287] to the main title. After reading the book, however, I came to realize that it also captures a subtle intention of the authors—to provide the framework for more positive, less intrusive ways of recreating in the mountains, and, hence, of developing them for tourism.
In order to make sense of ecotourism in Appalachia, the authors venture far and wide, recounting a global history of travel and tourism, and then providing a sampling of ecotourism case studies from around the globe, emphasizing such places as Nepal, Belize, Hawaii, and Alaska. The authors believe that tourism policy in Appalachia will benefit from understanding the positive and negative experiences of tourism in other places around the world, and they devote several chapters to them. The purpose of these comparative studies is to elucidate how different places have variously construed the concept of ecotourism for local development purposes, and to recount the social and environmental impacts that result from the different applications. The insights gained from the worldwide case studies then are related to Appalachia, with varying degrees of success. According to its own spirit of intention (and the authors' definition), ecotourism must...