Tourism and transformations in the Alaska frontier: A study of tourism growth and its effects on three southeast Alaska communities

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




A. H. Castro


Tourism, Alaska, Frontier, Rural communities, Globalization

Subject Categories

Anthropology | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social and Cultural Anthropology


Tourism is one of the world's largest and fastest growing industries. Developing regions seek to expand their economic base through tourism, with endorsement of states and multilateral institutions. Meanwhile, tourism, as a product and process of globalization, can transform host communities and natural resources, affecting local livelihoods and lifestyles. This dissertation utilizes a comparative case study approach to understand the role of tourism in shaping communities, economies, and natural resources in three rural Alaska sites. Sites selected were similar in size, demographic composition and economic history, but varied in their level of tourism involvement. Stakeholder analysis was employed to disaggregate the involvement of various social actors. The purpose of this study was two-fold: (a) to understand how multi-level stakeholders engaged in the process of tourism development within host communities; (b) to investigate how tourism impacts were distributed among various stakeholders. Dynamic relations among local and non-local stakeholders building a tourism economy were explored. Tourism impacts were examined among these stakeholders and other social groups to differentiate tourism beneficiaries and those bearing the burden of tourism.

Stakeholder analysis revealed that tourism was introduced to host communities from both local and non-local institutions. Comparative case analysis revealed that corporate investment in tourism increased the scale of the tourism enterprise and facilitated global integration. As tourism expanded, non-local corporations played a greater role in the local economy. Results also showed that tourism impacts were magnified when local patterns of resource use were altered. Tourism resulted in conflicts among stakeholders competing for shared resources, with fishermen and recreation users bearing the brunt of tourism. Tourism provided clear economic incentives for businesses and local governments, but few clear benefits for workers. Finally, the socio-cultural effects of tourism were widely shared, with particular implications for Alaska Natives needing to preserve cultural resources.


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