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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Linda Lowry

Second Advisor

Rodney Warnick

Third Advisor

Linda Smircich

Fourth Advisor

Meg Gebhard

Subject Categories

Tourism and Travel


Tourism scholarship is continuously advancing the understanding of tourism development as it positively relates economically and environmentally to tourism-based societies. In recent years, the tourism discipline as a whole has made little progress in identifying the social and cultural impacts of tourism, including questions of why and how local communities’ traditional foundations and defining characteristics are changed, influenced, and challenged by tourists and tourism business development. This dissertation restores the conversation that focuses on how tourism development and consumerism can change the socio-cultural profiles of local communities by addressing the understudied area of the ways in which tourism may affect the social systems and collective dynamics of a tourism-based community. Drawing on Nash’s (1977) view of tourism as a form of imperialism and expanding on Doxey’s (1975) original attempt to identify tourism’s influence on local residents, this dissertation contributes to social theories of the tourism discipline by bringing a different frame of reference and set of questions to exploration of the social impact of tourism growth through a qualitative ethnographic method and a constructivist grounded theory analysis of primary (participant observation and interviews) and secondary (written documents and pictures) data sources from eighteen months of immersion in one mountain community in the advanced industrial society of the United States. The findings suggest that tourism impacts four dimensions of this mountain community: structuring the local social world, intensifying acceptance issues between members of different social groups, shaping conflict and disagreement, and establishing the centrality of the environment. This research contributes to previous research by arguing that a holistic, complex account of interconnected relationships in a local community, such as this, can illuminate the nature of social conflict and disagreement around tourism, as well as suggest that tourism business decision-makers have the ability to influence the relationships of the major players in a recreation-based community.