Date of Award

2015

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marine Affairs

Department

Marine Affairs

First Advisor

Tracey Dalton

Abstract

Agritourism encompasses a variety of different types of agricultural tourism products and can be defined broadly as the incorporation of commercial tourism into a working farm. Agritourism has been used on land as a way to diversify farm activities. As national shellfish aquaculture production in the United States increased over the years, aquaculture growers also began adopting agritourism components on their farms.

The primary objectives for this study were to (1) expand on current agritourism knowledge; (2) help to address the gap in existing literature pertaining to aquaculture farm-based tourism; and (3) provide shellfish growers and coastal managers with insights into this emerging use of coastal waters. To achieve these objectives, research focused on examining (1) the different types of agritourism currently implemented by shellfish farmers on the East and Pacific coasts of the US; (2) how shellfish growers perceive a variety of motivations for offering tourism on their farms; (3) how shellfish growers perceive challenges of offering tourism activities; and (4) how these perceptions vary among different stakeholder groups (e.g. East coast v. Pacific coast growers, growers with v. without agritourism).

In order to address these questions, 64 shellfish growers across 15 states along the East and Pacific coasts of the US were surveyed. Survey invitations were distributed via e-mail and responses were collected through an electronic survey. Results showed shellfish growers offer a variety of agritourism opportunities on their farms such as tours, farm dinners, and festivals. Almost half of all respondents currently offer tourism on their farms, and a third of respondents who do not currently have these opportunities indicated that they are planning to develop them in the future. Most respondents with agritourism do not charge consumers to participate in these activities. Three categories of motivations for offering agritourism emerged: Education and Outreach, Economics, and External Influences. Shellfish growers from all stakeholder groups agreed most strongly with Education and Outreach and least strongly with External Influences as motivations for offering agritourism. Respondents with agritourism rated Education and Outreach higher than respondents without agritourism. This study also found that as a whole, the challenges that respondents agreed most strongly with were lack of resources to offer tourism, lack of infrastructure to support tourism, and additional costs associated with offering tourism. Pacific coast respondents felt the challenges to developing tourism more strongly than East coast respondents. This study concludes with management recommendations for coastal managers and regulators, as well as recommendations for future research.

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