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54th Congress of the European Regional Science Association: "Regional development & globalisation: Best practices", 26-29 August 2014, St. Petersburg, Russia
Tourism management literature in the last decades has paid much attention to the study of resident perceptions and attitudes towards tourism development. Results of empirical research have variously linked such perceptions and attitudes to issues of socio-economic growth and socio-environmental impact. This leads to different and often contradictory attitudes, sometimes strongly depending on geographical contexts and specificities, and generally linked to perceived trade-offs between economic and infrastructural development opportunities on the one hand, and socio-environmental effects (in terms, for instance, of crime levels, traffic, pollution) on the other. However, studies attempting at investigating the structure of perception building and interdependencies in a deep way have been rather few, the majority of them being based on simple regression analyses, not fully able to grasp the complexity of such issues and evidence causal chains. Besides, the role of attitudes and perceptions about quality of life have not been adequately taken into account as factors behind tourism perceptions. The present paper is an attempt at overcoming some of these shortcomings, by approaching the issue of tourism perceptions among residents through a path analysis and structural equation modelling-based approach, investigating the impact of residence place quality perception on tourism-related attitudes. In our model, the intermediate key endogenous variable is the perception of tourism as source of possible economic benefits, supposed both to be affected by quality of life assessment and to affect positive and/or negative perceptions related to life change opportunities and risks, and impact on the environment. The analysis is carried out among residents of Lake Engure area, a rural region characterized by recent tourism increase, located in western Latvia. Results are tested against several socio-demographic and socio-spatial control variables, with a specific focus on differences between coast and hinterland inhabitants. Age, gender, employment status, and years of residence in the area are also taken into account. Results support to a large extent the relation between quality of life assessment and perceptions towards tourism, and the complex pattern of relations among perceptions. Besides, they also evidence a very high sensitivity to control variables, in particular those related to the coast / hinterland divide, employment, and place-rootedness.
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