Rural Tourism in a Metropolitan Hinterland: Co-evolving Towards a Resilient Rural Fringe
This chapter explores the tourism development process in the rural fringe of Canada’s Niagara Region through an evolutionary economic geography (EEG) lens, which focuses on how past conditions both constrain and enable future courses of regional development. Through our research we have found that, despite the Niagara Region’s close proximity to millions of urban and suburban dwellers, the growth of its rural tourism economy has been stunted by several geographical and institutional challenges. The most notable of these is the highly dominant presence of Niagara Falls, a globally iconic landmark whose role as a mass tourism destination has led to many tourists thinking that Niagara Falls “is Niagara”, despite the region having twelve different municipalities that have a great deal to offer to prospective visitors. Furthermore, it was widely believed among those we interviewed that Niagara’s regional tourism organization (RTO) was also biased in favour of Niagara Falls, along with the highly-popular Niagara-on-the-Lake, and that other municipalities were largely left out of the RTO’s marketing and promotional efforts. Finally, the lack of any true leadership in regional tourism planning—to deal with issues such as product development and the provision of wayfinding infrastructure—in Niagara was also seen as detrimental to the growth of tourism in Niagara’s rural fringe. Our chapter concludes with a number of recommendations to move Niagara’s rural tourism economy forward in light of these challenges.
Christopher and Patrick gratefully acknowledge the support of the Niagara Tourism Network and Brock University’s Council for Research in the Social Sciences in completing the research included in this chapter.
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