A Historical and Contemporary Discussion of the Tourism Industry in the Appalachian Region of the United States, with an analysis on its economic and sociological effects
Appalachia is defined as a roughly 1,000-mile long region in the eastern United States nestled in and around the Appalachian mountains. It is roughly 205,000 square miles and contains all or parts of twelve states: Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Kentucky, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Ohio. The area was home to about 25 million people as of the 2010 census. It is important to note that the region has struggled with outmigration since the 1930s beginning with the onset of the Great Depression. (Appalachian Regional Commission 2017).
Historically, Appalachia has been known as a unique region in the United States. Beginning with roots as a common settlement region for fiery Scotch-Irish immigrants in the 1700s, continued by earning a reputation as a center for moonshine production during the 1930s, and now known as a region where the wealthy buy their second and third homes, the region has consistently been able to craft its own, particular culture. With a population that is 42% rural (compared to a 20% rural population for the entire U.S.) and overwhelmingly Scotch-Irish in ethnic composition, the area differs from the mainstream US. Beset by poverty, the region needs tourism to be a viable industry in many of its locales. A population that is relatively low in educational achievement (Appalachia as whole averages a 22% college completion rate per county compared with a US rate of 29% per county) and does not have easy access to intellectual resources in many places needs a stable, job-providing industry (Appalachian Regional Commission 2017). The area once had a legacy in the mining and forestry industries, but according to the Appalachian Regional Commission, that era has passed and people now rely on a rebirth of manufacturing, service industries, and tourism to provide jobs (2017). Fortunately, the situation in Appalachia has improved since 1960, as the number of economically distressed counties in the region has declined from 295 in 1960 to 91 in 2014 (Appalachian Regional Commission 2017). The poverty rate of 17.1% is slightly above the national average of 14.3% (Appalachian Regional Commission 2017).
The region has come to increasingly depend on the tourism industry to fill an economic void as gaps in basic services and the continual draining of potential intellectual capital from population loss continue to plague the area. This paper will examine contemporary perspectives on tourism in the Appalachian region and analyze their economic and sociological effects.
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