Sustainability, Empowerment, and Resident Attitudes toward Tourism: Developing and Testing the Resident Empowerment through Tourism Scale (RETS)
Boley, Bertram Bynum
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Research on resident attitudes towards tourism and sustainability are two of the most ubiquitous and important topics within tourism research. This study sought to contribute to these fields of research in four specific ways. First, this study suggested Weber's theory of formal and substantive rationality as a theory capable of explaining the complexity inherent in resident attitudes toward tourism because of its incorporation of the economic and non-economic factors influencing rationality. The inclusion of Weber as a theoretical framework is also presented as a theory useful for bringing Social Exchange Theory (SET) back to its original focus on 'all' the costs and benefits associated within the host/guest relationship. The second and third contributions of the study stem from taking the previously conceptual constructs of psychological, social, and political empowerment and developing them into reliable and valid measurement scales. After validation, the three sub-scales were tested in a Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA), which demonstrated them to be construct valid based upon tests of convergent, discriminant, and nomological validity. These scales were subsequently included as antecedents to residents' perceptions of tourism's impacts, as well as their overall support for tourism in a Structural Equation Model (SEM) analysis. The SEM analysis found all three dimensions of empowerment to have significant relationships with perceptions of tourism's positive and negative impacts with the construct of psychological empowerment being the only empowerment dimension to have a direct and significant relationship with 'support for tourism'. Lastly, the study expanded these areas of research through conducting the study across three counties with varying emphasis placed on sustainable tourism. Floyd, Botetourt, and Franklin County, Virginia were selected for sampling based upon their homogeneity in regards to tourism product, per capita tourism expenditures and economic condition and their heterogeneity in regards to emphasis on sustainable tourism. Nine hundred surveys were distributed across the three counties with 703 ultimately used in the analysis. The results partially confirmed the hypothesis that resident attitudes toward tourism differ by a county's emphasis on sustainable tourism. Future research needs to further investigate sustainable tourism's influence on residents' attitudes toward tourism.