J. Service Science & Management, 2009, 2: 61-70
Published Online June 2009 in SciRes (www.SciRP.org/journal/jssm)
Copyright © 2009 SciRes JSSM
Economic and Social Impact of Tourism on a Small
Town: Peterborough New Hampshire
Tomoko Tsundoda, Samuel Mendlinger
Department of Administrative Sciences, Metropolitan College, Boston University, 808 Commonwealth Ave. Boston MA. 02215, USA.
Email: mendling@bu.edu
Received March 5th, 2009; revised April 10th, 2009, accepted May 20th, 2009.
This study examined the perceived impacts of tourism on the lives of people from a small New England town. Twenty
seven in-depth unstructured interviews were conducted. The study found that most people perceive both positive and
negative impacts of tourism and do not want to change their town for increased tourism development even if it results in
increased revenue. People recognized tourism’s benefit to the town’s economy but less so to their economic situation.
Working locals expressed worry regarding the town’s gradually polarized economy and divided social classes and re-
gard tourism as one of the causes. Wealthier members generally view tourism at its present level as beneficial. For fur-
ther tourism development Peterborough’ population will need to solve this dilemma.
Keywords: polarization, tourism development and consequence
1. Introduction
Studies on the impacts of tourism have shown that a des-
tination’s population recognizes economic and social
benefits and costs of tourism on their community and
lives [1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10]. Economic benefits are usu-
ally regarded as the most important benefits of tourism
and include increased employment opportunities, income
generation, tax revenue and improved standard of living
[5,11,12,13,14,15,16]. Social benefits include the main-
tenance of traditional cultures, increased intercultural
communication and understanding, improved social wel-
fare, quality of life, improved shopping and increased rec-
reational opportunity [7,15,17,18,19,20,21].
Economic costs of tourism include increased tax bur-
dens by developing infrastructure used primarily by
tourists, inflation, increased cost of land and housing,
over commitment of resources and development budgets
to tourism, immigration of labor and increased local
government debt [5,18,19,22,23]. Social costs include
increased crime rates, prostitution, friction between tour-
ists and residents and changes in traditional cultures and
host’s way of life [5,6,7,14,19,24,25].
Studies have shown that different groups within a
community may have different perceptions of the im-
pacts of tourism on their community and lives. Hara-
lambopolous and Pizam [14] examined a tourism desti-
nation on the Greek island of Samos and found that local
residents who were economically dependent on tourism
had a more positive attitude towards the tourism industry
than those who were not. Besculides et al. [26] studied
how differently the Hispanic and non- Hispanic popula-
tions living along the Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic and
Historic byway in southwestern Colorado perceived cul-
tural benefits derived from tourism. While both groups
recognized the value of tourism, Hispanic more than
non-Hispanic residents felt that, while tourism can pro-
vide important cultural benefits to residents, care should
be taken to preserve the distinct cultural atmosphere of
the place. Dyer et al. [10] developed a structural model
to describe tourism impact perceptions of residents in the
Sunshine Coast, Queensland, and found that the per-
ceived positive economic impact factor has the largest
influence on residents’ support for further tourism de-
velopment. Additional factors affecting different groups’
perceptions of tourism’s benefits or costs include length
of residency, extent of tourism development, residents’
proximity to the tourism sites, the degree of dependency
on tourism, the degree of community cohesiveness
and/or local patriotism, age, gender, reasons for moving
to the community, income, employment status, education,
contact with tourists knowledge about the tourism indus-
try type and the type of tourism at a the destination
Today many communities are either establishing or
expanding their tourism industry as a means of low en-
vironmental impact wealth and job creation. As such we
need to better understand the attitudes and believes of the
local population on the benefits and costs of tourism on
their lives and community. In this paper we present the
attitudes and opinions of Peterborough, New Hamp-
shire’s residents on the economic and social impacts of
tourism on their lives and the town.
2. Impact of Tourism
2.1 Peterborough New Hampshire
Peterborough’s tourism industry is based on nature and
cultural tourism assets. Peterborough, population 6,100
[30], is located in the Monadnock region and is a one and
half hour drive from Boston, Massachusetts. Peterbor-
ough’s major industries are education, health, and social
industry (696 employees), retail trade (including tourism
related retail trade, 436), manufacturing (428) profes-
sional and management (311) and tourism attractions and
products (124) (US Census, 2000). Peterborough’s per
capita income is $26,154, above the region’s average
($22,269), and its unemployment rate was 2.5%, lower
than the region’s 3.2% [30]. The major tourism attrac-
tions in Peterborough include MacDowell Colony, Mt.
Monadnock and its local cultural assets and town at-
mosphere. Over 500,000 tourists visit annually.
Peterborough is in the process of deciding how and to
what extent to expand its tourist industry. Its tourism infra-
structure is limited, e.g. there are only two Bed & Break-
fasts in town and no public transportation from other
towns and cities to Peterborough. Downtown Peterbor-
ough has been preserved with care and has the feel of a
classical “New England” town. The majority of the
downtown stores and restaurants are medium to high-end
in terms of price and product selections. Tourism in
Peterborough is mostly day tourism. Peterborough was
selected as one of “the coolest town in the U. S.” [31].
2.2 Research Design
In-depth unstructured interviews were used to identify fac-
tors which affect residences’ opinions and perceptions on
the existing tourism industry as well as their expectations
and anxieties of increasing tourism development [32,33,34].
Table 1. Questions asked in interviews
Questions to all interviewees Specific questions for local residents living less than 5 years
1. What about Peterborough attracted you to come to Peterborough?
2. Do you want to see tourism expanded in the future? How?
Specific questions for local residents living more than 20 years
1. How do you feel about tourism in Peterborough?
2. Why do you think tourists come to Peterborough?
4. How do you think tourism affects Peterborough economically and socially?
5. How do you think tourists affect Peterborough?
6. Do tourists increase activities for local people?
7. Do you have favorable or unfavorable opinion about tourism?
8. How do you see the potential of tourism in Peterborough?
9. How does tourism affect local people’s lives economically and socially?
10. Do you see a change in tourists and tourism over last few years?
1. How have you seen Peterborough change due to tourism?
2. Are you satisfied with tourism in Peterborough?
3. Do you want to see tourism expanded in the future? How?
Specific questions for industry interviewees Specific questions for local teenagers
1. How does tourism and tourists affect your business?
2. How do you see your business 5 years from now in respect to tourism?
3. How is your business going lately in comparison to 5 years ago?
4. When is the busiest season?
5. How have you tried to develop tourism in Peterborough?
6. What percentage of your customers is tourists/local?
7. Is housing market influenced by tourists in Peterborough How? (only for
real estate)
1. Would you like to live in Peterborough after you graduate from
high school?
2. Will you come back to Peterborough after you graduate from
Table 2. The perceived and anticipated impacts of tourism and tourists
Economic Social/Cultural
Perceived positive (benefits) * The town’s economy in general
* Increased options in restaurants and shops
* Social interactions
* More diverse tastes in town
impacts Perceived negative (costs) * Increased prices in restaurants and rent
* Unsustainable employment
* Conflicts between tourists and locals
Expectation (positive) * Further tourism development may generate more
options to shop and eat * Tourism may increase social interactions.
Anxiety (negative)
* Big box corporations may invade local small busi-
ness opportunity.
* Tourism may accelerate polarized economy.
* Tourism may accelerate polarized social
Copyright © 2009 SciRes JSSM
Lepp (2007) pointed out that this method allows for the
injection of new and often unexpected ideas. Hernandez
et al. [32] said that the main advantage of in-depth un-
structured interviews is that a better understanding of
respondents’ thinking and attitudes on key issues could
be obtained than with structured interviews. Ten open
ended questions were asked to all interviewees while
additional questions were asked specifically to people in
one or more categories (Table 1). Interviewees were in-
formed that the information collected will be used only
for this research and each person signed a confidentiality
agreement. All interviews were recorded and transcribed
verbatim. Answers related to economic and social/cul-
tural perceptions were sorted as either: 1) perceived im-
pacts which are what interviewees have already experi-
enced and felt about tourism; or 2) anticipated impacts
which are what interviewees assume will happen in the
future (Table 2). The perceived and anticipated impacts
can have both positive and negative responses. Each sec-
tion contains four elements: perceived benefits, per-
ceived costs, expectation, and anxiety. Thematic analysis
was used for establishing and analyzing themes. The
interviews were conducted in Peterborough during the
summer 2007.
Purposive sampling technique was used for selecting
interviewees. Peterborough’s Chamber of Commerce
helped to initially contact potential interviewees and later
we contacted people via e-mail or direct contact. The
interviewees were selected to represent seven residential
categories (Table 3). To make interviewees as comfort-
able as possible all interviews were held either in the
interviewees’ work place or home. Twenty seven inter-
views were conducted with the time of interview varying
from 24 minutes to one hour and 20 minutes with an
average time of 40 minutes.
2.3 Themes from the Interviews
Peterborough’s population has a very strong self and
town identity. Most said that a main priority was main-
taining a town for the comfort of the local population and
not for tourists. “I don’t think we are going to lose the
character of the town. I don’t think we are going to sell
out because people care about the town” (Living more
than 20 years, #2). Peterborough’s quaint and cute “New
England” atmosphere is a major draw for tourists. “I
think Peterborough is attractive to tourists. We have old
buildings, we have history… it’s a beautiful town. It’s
got its own character… I think that’s the big thing and
we preserved New England flavor without selling out to
big corporations” (Living more than 20 years, #4).
“Peterborough is very cutie town for New England…
tourists are looking for that cute New England town”
(Recreation, #18). Most interviewees were aware of the
importance of town planning and care how the town de-
Table 3. The code number, gender and category of the 27
Code NumberGender Category
1 Female Live 20 years or more
2 Female Live 20 years or more
3 Male Live 20 years or more
4 Male Live 20 years or more
5 Female Live 5 years or less
6 Male Live 5 years or less
7 Female Live 5 years or less
8 Female Teenager
9 Male Teenager
10 Male Teenager
11 Female Real Estate
12 Female Real Estate
13 Male Real Estate
14 Male Recreation
15 Male Recreation
16 Female Recreation
17 Female Recreation
18 Female Recreation
19 Male Retail
20 Female Retail
21 Male Retail
22 Female Retail
23 Male Hospitality
24 Male Hospitality
25 Female Hospitality
26 Male Hospitality
27 Female Hospitality
velops. “There is a real effort not to have big box stores
and franchises…fast food places” (Real Estate, #13).
Therefore large chain and box stores are not found
While several interviewees mentioned that the poten-
tial for tourism growth is limited “I think it’s going to
grow a little bit but I don’t think it’s going to grow a lot”
(Hospitality, #25), others said that tourism can be ex-
panded but how it is to be done is the key issue. “If it
grows as a sustainable level with the town, go for it. If it
stops being sustainable, if we have to change our char-
acter, then no. I think that is a concern for some people”
(Living more than 20 years, #4). Several interviewees
mentioned that the few overnight accommodations
available for tourists in Peterborough are a problem for
tourism’s future development. “The thing is we have
very few places for people to stay overnight. We need to
have a place for people to stay overnight.” (Real estate,
#11). “I don’t think tourism will increase greatly because
again no place to stay” (Recreation, #17).
Twenty one out of 27 interviewees had an overall fa-
vorable opinion about tourism and tourists. “Favorable, I
do. Though some of them are rude, generally, it’s a good
positive because it increases my sales” (Retail, #25).
“They are interesting people” (Hospitality, #26). “For the
most part, it’s [having tourists] great” (Retail, #19). “I
Copyright © 2009 SciRes JSSM
think we get to like them because we don’t attract ob-
noxious tourists… thoughtful people who are happy to
be here” (Recreation, #17). “We love to see tourists.
They bring a lot of money” (Real estate, #13). However
some interviewees’ did have negative attitudes towards
tourism and tourists or could have if more tourists came.
“Tourists are rude…they are usually inconsiderately
rude” (Living less than five years, #6). “A lot of them are
very nice but tourists from the larger cities can be very
rude.” (Retail, #25). “They were all dressed up and caked
with makeup and they just sat here and pretty much
downed the entire town of Peterborough… it was very
unpleasant” (Retail, #25). “We don’t have that many
tourists and I guess that’s why I’ve got a positive feeling
about tourists. If this was a tourist destination that people
were swarming in, I might not like it as much” (Retail,
#20). Many local people have a stereotype of Peterbor-
ough’s tourists as old, affluent and snobby who are from
big cities. “They are mostly old people” (Real estate,
#11). “We have this arrogance [of tourists] …like New
Yorkers working in finance and trying to get out of cit-
ies” (Hospitality, #24).
Many interviewees mentioned that the current balance
between tourism and local peoples’ lives is fine and be-
lieved that the point that local’s feel that they are sacri-
ficing their way of life for tourism has not yet been
reached. “I don’t think it hit that point [tourism intrudes
on local people’s lives] yet. I think we have a long way
to go before we have to worry about that…as long as we
can maintain the character of the town” (Living more
than 20 years, #4). “Tourism doesn’t go overboard like
in some towns where tourists are there all summer and
double or triple the population of the town” (Hospitality,
#26). Several interviewees expressed a degree of indif-
ference about tourism or its impact on either them or
Peterborough. “[Tourist] doesn’t bother me” (Teenager,
#9). “I haven’t thought about it much” (Living more than
20 years, #2). “It just seems not to have big impact…I
am certainly not aware of tourism per se” (Living less
than five years, #5).
2.4 Perceived Economic Benefits
Regardless of category, most interviewees perceived
positive economic benefits of tourism. “Definitely helps”
(Teenager #8). “Economically it affects local people
wonderfully” (Retail #19). “Definitely tourism is a big
factor in the economics of the town and is important”
(Hospitality #26). “I think it’s very important for the
health of the community. Most of the businesses in town
rely on it. They would not survive without tourists”
(Recreation, #17).
Only a few interviewees mentioned that tourism cre-
ated jobs in town. The reason may be that there are no
mega tourism products in Peterborough which employ a
large number of people in a single business. Rather, most
tourism businesses are small and employ few people and
thus tourism may not be perceived by many locals as
being an important job creator. One exception was “I
think so [tourism increases jobs] because I think tourism
develops the community. When I come back I may be
able to get a job around here” (Teenager, #8).
Several interviewees mentioned new business oppor-
tunities generated by tourism with several interviewees
in retail saying that they stock or develop specific
products for tourists. “I think retail has to be part of
that [opportunities generated by tourism] because
shopping in the U.S. is a past time rather than a neces-
sity. I think Peterborough has great opportunity for
businesses” (Retail, #21). Interviewees also mentioned
that a positive affect of tourists is increased options for
locals for shopping, entertainment and restaurants.
Their perception is that tourists contribute to sustaining
local businesses which are also used by local people.
“If there are no tourists, we would not have wonderful
restaurants. I am not sure whether we would have
seven plays [in a local theater] in a season if we could
not depend on tourists. Businesses dependent on tour-
ists such as restaurants and shops would not survive
without tourists. It impacts the rest of us by having
those things here in town and we don’t have to go
someplace else” (Recreation, #17).
Real estate agencies perceive a positive economic im-
pact of tourists on their business. The more tourists who
visit, “fall in love with” and decide to live in Peterbor-
ough, the more people are likely to purchase houses us-
ing these agencies. Interviewees from real estate agen-
cies mentioned that people from outside tend to buy
more expensive houses than locals. “Tourists are coming
and bringing out of state money. Often make money in
Boston or New York. These people are going to buy mil-
lion dollar houses. That kind of money is nice to have
come in” (Real Estate, #13). “They often come back
again and again. Pretty soon they buy a second home and
become a member of the community” (Real Estate, #11).
“People buy second homes for summer or for skiing and
love it so much and became primary residence. It hap-
pens a lot because this is fantastic place to live” (Real
Estate, #13).
2.5 Perceived Economic Costs
Although interviewees spoke about the economic bene-
fits of tourism and said that the negative impacts of tour-
ism were still tolerable, several had a negative attitude
towards tourism due to the economic costs of tourism to
residents. One cost that many, especially younger, inter-
viewees saw was price increases. “Tourism drives up
prices” (Living less than five years, #5). Elderly inter-
viewees or those with high paying jobs were less aware
Copyright © 2009 SciRes JSSM
of increasing prices. The high price of restaurants was
often mentioned by interviewees as a consequence of
tourism. “Some residents do suffer because restaurants
are over priced. They can’t go to restaurants. They can’t
go to a play. Very expensive. That’s something people
come from outside to go to. Local people can not go to
these restaurants. Even though tourism is positive for the
economy, it’s bad” (Recreation, #18). On the other hand,
some interviewees mentioned that the increased option
of different restaurants is good for residents and the
complaint that the prices of the restaurants are too high is
not entirely valid. “I think that people who can not afford
what we have here now could not afford what was here
10 years ago and I don’t think restaurants are expen-
sive… It’s a complaint that I am not sure is valid” (Rec-
reation, #17). “I think it’s very balanced. I think there is
a perception because of a few shops some people can’t
afford to go to and this is horrible…but that’s life …I
mean I can go to a supermarket and buy beer in five dif-
ferent prices…it depends on where economically you
are” (Living more than 20 years, #4).
Several comments regarding increasing housing costs
and rents due to “outsiders” buying property were made
by interviewees. “Housing cost is increasing dramati-
cally” (Recreation, #17). “I was in an apartment up here
before I got a house. That one went up from when I first
move in and moved out…one hundred fifty dollars as
soon as I moved out…another one hundred fifty a few
months later. Three hundred increase in a year” (Retail,
#19). “Honestly a lot of people can not even afford the
rent any more around here. It is a stigma…you do not
want to be known as not well off …but there are people
who are definitely not making a lot of money and live
here. It’s hard for people who work here to live here”
(Living more than 20 years, #3).
Some interviewees emphasized that tourism creates
jobs which are not sustainable, do not require profes-
sional skills and do not provide a sufficiently high salary
to afford having a family. “I think that economically ob-
viously…it’s a double edge sword…everybody benefits
to some extent…because it brings more lower level jobs
here…people who take care of housing and landscaping”
(Living less than five years, #5). “It creates unsustainable
jobs…jobs that you can not really live on….live but you
can not have a kid” (Hospitality, #24).
Interviewees mentioned that the closing of stores who
catered to the needs of the local population only to re-
open as businesses catering to tourists caused significant
inconvenience when people need basic products. “There
is a sacrifice which is some stores and some restaurants
are changing towards serving tourists more than locals”
(Living more than 20 years, #2). An interviewee in
Peterborough for more than 20 years experienced his
family business, a consignment shop which had second
hand furniture, having to close. “We had nice things and
some antiques. We also had furniture and house wares
and stuff. It worked really well for both tourists who are
very interested in collectibles and people in low income
range who just need new furniture. We shut down and
moved around numerous times and the reason given by
the landlords were ‘this is not the attractive kind of
business you want in this primary rental space because
tourists come in here we do not want them to see this
trash’. We have actually experienced having a business
closed because it is not attractive enough to tourists even
though we are serving needs [for locals]” (Living more
than 20 years, #4).
While some interviewees mentioned that tourism was
not an essential industry for the town’s economy, others
pointed out that Peterborough has been transformed into
a town which can not be economically sustained without
tourists; i.e. it has become tourist dependent. “If you go
to Peterborough you can tell…there are fancy restaurants,
which is very unusual for any other these [surrounding]
small towns. Peterborough could not survive without that
kind of influx” (Recreation, #18). “Economically, I think
tourism is necessary. It’s a small town…we need that
influx of people” (Retail, #22).
2.6 Economic Expectations
The potential of tourism was frequently stated by the
interviewees. Several interviewees mentioned that
Peterborough is a unique and quaint New England town
which satisfies tourists’ expectations and preserving the
town’s traditions and cultures was recognized as impor-
tant. “There is a lot of potential here” (Living less than
five years, #5). “We want to preserve things we love.
They need funding to keep going and tourism is the best
option. Tourists just come and go and there is money left
behind… in that sense it’s really positive. …as long as
you know we don’t try to become Disneyland” (Living
more than 20 years, #4). “I think it will grow more be-
cause the town is so charming. And I think there are
probably tons of little projects that I am not even aware
of… I think the tourism industry becomes more and
more. Definitely improve” (Recreation, #18).
2.7 Economic Anxiety
Several interviewees mentioned that they try to buy local
in order to support local businesses and mega stores may
reduce the town’s individuality and uniqueness. They
were worried that a heavy influx of tourists might change
the local population’s effort to buy local, and tourists and
new residents would buy from cheaper “big box” stores.
“Every town is losing its individuality. You could be in
Nashua, New Hampshire or you could be in Phoenix,
Arizona, and you’re going to come out of an Applebee’s,
a Wal-Mart, a whatever. Some people love to travel and
Copyright © 2009 SciRes JSSM
say oh isn’t this great I can go to Applebee’s and I know
what, what I’m going to eat” (Retail, #20).
2.8 Perceived Social Benefits
Interviewees mentioned that the social impacts of tour-
ism were less important in comparison to economic im-
pacts. “Socially I don’t think it affects much. It’s not a
place people come for a week. They are either here for a
day so we don’t have much interaction or they are here
for the whole summer and go within the community.
There are very few bus tours” (Recreation, #17). “I don’t
know socially” (Teenager, #8). Most interviewees said
that they believe interactions with tourists either do not
happen or are limited to activities such as giving direc-
tions. “The only interaction I have seen is direction giv-
ing” (Recreation, #18). “I don’t see that many people
mingling. I mean there are conversations that go on in the
store, directions given. It’s a friendly town so everyone’s
willing to help anyone find anything or they want to know
where to eat… I don’t think that there is any large interac-
tion between the people that live here all the time and
tourists” (Retail, #20). However several interviewees
stated that interactions with tourists can benefit local
population. “I would mostly say social interactions… ex-
posure to different ideas can help us” (Retail, #19).
Interviewees regard different tastes and diverse cul-
tures that tourists bring as benefiting Peterborough. “So-
cially as well, because what we find is the more different
kinds of people that come…the more we want to provide
to their tastes,… like I find the people in Peterborough
like a certain kind of cheese and then the tourists will
want something different, so we learn from each other,
we learn what they like” (Retail, #21). Real estate inter-
viewees mentioned that tourists who purchase houses in
Peterborough often reinforce what exists today. “I think
that [people] often came as tourists [and] now become at
least part-time residents. Part-time residents are just as
involved as full-time residents. They tend to support
what’s already here” (Real estate, #11).
2.9 Perceived Social Costs
Although several interviewees mentioned that the belief
that Peterborough is being overtaken by tourism is not
yet pervasive among locals, negative feelings towards
tourism and tourists were found. “Socially like I said it’s
only cost right now” (Living more than 20 years, #3).
“Socially I think we all tend to feel a little intruded on
sometimes” (Retail, #19). “People that I know here are
generally annoyed by tourists. If not, a little bit hostile
sometimes” (Recreation, #17).
Several interviewees, especially the younger genera-
tion, mentioned that due to tourism polarization was oc-
curring between affluent people who earned money out-
side Peterborough and settled in Peterborough and
working class residents whose families have been in
Peterborough for generations. Although tourism may not
be the only reason for polarization in Peterborough, dis-
parities in wealth among locals is real and interviewees
emphasized tourism as one of the major reasons for eco-
nomic and social polarization between the affluent and
the working residents. An interviewee who works in a
downtown restaurant said “Tourism caters to a
high-brow affluent market. It is very expensive. I can not
afford to eat there. As far as local people, always the
same coming in, people who are white, relatively afflu-
ent. For those people identifying themselves as working
class, it is really difficult. I think it (tourism) kind of po-
larized Peterborough economically because a lot of peo-
ple who moved in are more affluent… They have already
made money outside” (Hospitality, #24). “This town is
kind of a unique mix…liberal affluent and working class
in New Hampshire. But it is really like no middle class
around here. And tourism kind of like …tourism helps
perpetuate this low wage class” (Hospitality, #24). Sev-
eral interviewees equated tourists with affluent local
people as they interchanged words such as “affluent
people” and “wealthy locals” with “tourists”. “There is a
huge gap between the poor and the wealthier people. I
think tourists in Peterborough really demonstrate
this…They are richer people” (Recreation, #18). “People
want to keep the town pretty…so that people driving
along the highway see this nice little town and stop to
spend money. So we are doing for tourism. But those
places {fast food chains} are affordable, really affordable.
A lot of people stretch their budgets” (Living more than
20 years, #three) Interviewees mentioned that tourists
who first vacation and then purchase homes and become
residents accelerate polarization. “I think more people,
people who had come and decided to stay, make it
worse” (Recreation, #17). “I think that most of the nega-
tivity existing in this town is the fact that there are a lot
of people living from a lot of different social classes in
this town. They don’t really acknowledge the other peo-
ple” (Recreation, #18).
No interviewee said that the crime rate was increasing
due to tourism and views the type of tourist who comes
to Peterborough as not likely to harm the town’s security.
“I don’t know any security issues that have been raised”
(Recreation, #18). “I don’t believe there is increase crime
rate in this town by tourism” (Hospitality, #25). “No. No.
No. I don’t think we draw such kind of crowd which
increase crime rate to a quaint little village. I think a lot
of activities you can do here appeal to an older sophisti-
cated audience” (Living less than five years, #5).
2.10 Social Expectation
Some interviewees said that tourists who become new
community members bring new ideas for the town’s
Copyright © 2009 SciRes JSSM
management. “I think the town benefits from an influx of
younger people” (Living less than five years, #5).
2.11 Social Anxiety
Several interviewees mentioned a degree of concern
brought about by tourist/local population contact and that
further tourism development may cause future friction
between affluent locals/new comers/tourists and working
class local people. Recreation #18 pointed out as local
people do not interact among social classes, tourists who
settle in Peterborough can only increase the polarization
among economic classes.
3. Discussion and Conclusions
The goal of this study was to examine how local people
in a small town perceive the impacts of tourism on their
lives. In-depth unstructured interviews were conducted
with people in seven categories of local residents. The
study found that people in Peterborough perceive both
positive and negative economic and social impacts of
tourism. Most interviewees, regardless of group, have a
strong attachment to their community and do not want to
change their town for increased tourism development
even if it results in increased revenue. They care how the
town is developing. While the importance of the tourism
industry for the local economy is recognized, they do not
want Peterborough to be dominated by tourism. Al-
though insufficient overnight accommodations were
identified as hindering further tourism development,
most people were wary of major infrastructure develop-
ment for tourists which may negatively affect their way
of life. A number of interviewees mentioned that the
current balance between tourism development and local
people’s lives is acceptable and Peterborough has not
reached the point that locals and their space are over-
whelmed by tourists.
Interviewees can be divided into three groups whose
attitudes can be summarized as: 1) tourism industry peo-
ple: we need tourism for our businesses but personally
have very little interest in it; 2) affluent locals: tourism is
fine if it does not change our town but improves our
quality of life; and 3) working locals: tourism contributes
to creating a polarized economy and divided social class.
Although tourism industry people see both the positive
and negative economic impacts of tourism on their busi-
nesses, they perceived the positive as larger than the nega-
tive. Jurowski et al. [4] found that the potential for eco-
nomic gain has a direct and positive affect on resident
support for tourism and influences the way residents eva-
luate the impacts of tourism. Similar results were found by
Milman and Pizam [35], Davis et al. [36], Ap [12] and
Prentice [37]. When interviewees from the tourism indus-
try were speaking as locals, they spoke about the negative
impacts of tourism in the same way as other locals.
Local non-industry people perceive both negative and
positive impacts from tourism with the positive impacts
mostly related to improved quality of life for the wealth-
ier locals and some economic improvement overall. Al-
len et al. [38] found that positive tourism development is
perceived as primarily economic and not quality of life
by local populations and discussed correlations between
community economic activity and tourism development
which influence residents’ attitudes toward tourism de-
velopment in rural areas. They concluded that communi-
ties with low tourism development and low economic
activity as well as communities with high tourism de-
velopment and high economic activity are most favor-
able toward tourism development. Conversely, low tour-
ism and high economic activity communities as well as
high tourism low economy communities do not have
favorable views on tourism. Peterborough can be re-
garded as being a high economic active but low tourism
community as the town has a well diverse economic base
of which tourism, while important, accounts for just over
5% of the total employed population, although its con-
tribution to the local economy is larger. Allen et al. [38]
found that communities with high economic activity and
low tourism development are economically stable and
their residents do not see the need for further tourism
development. This situation can apply to Peterborough
with the majority of interviewees not perceiving tourism
as needed for economic growth. Since the need for tour-
ism in the town’s economy is not high, people might be
more critical about the tourism industry and tourists than
people in a town which relies on tourism and sees the
industry as vital for their economy, i.e. a high tourism
and low economic activity community.
Smith [39] mentioned that negative impacts are only
tolerated for economic gain and Easterling [40] found
that locals’ support for tourism development is directly
related to the degree to which they economically benefit.
It can be said that the higher the needs of tourism for a
town’s economic welfare, the more negative social and
cultural impacts are tolerated. In Peterborough’s case,
most interviewees perceived some benefits from tourism
for the town’s economy and quality of life but these were
often not essential to many locals’ personal lives. Easter-
ling [40] found that while the majority of residents rec-
ognize the economic potential of tourism, most deny
personally benefiting from it. This point is applicable to
Hernandez et al. [32] found that the anxiety of local
residents in respect to how tourism development may
affect their lives is often more important than the actual
consequences of tourism. Many people in Peterborough
expressed concern about the continuation of tranquility if
more tourists come. The article of the Budget Travel
[31] represented Peterborough’s attitude toward tour-
Copyright © 2009 SciRes JSSM
ism. A restaurant owner said: “The nod paid to Peter-
borough by Budget Travel would be a welcome boost
for businesses in the area, though he (the restaurant
owner) said he hopes the magazine's readers won't
come all at once. Peterborough’s a small town. I don't
think we could handle all 600,000 at one time, he
joked.” The Budget Travel article may have increased
the expectations of tourists and the anxiety of locals.
While today Peterborough’s population is fairly uni-
form in their attitudes toward the positive and negative
impacts of tourism, opinions about further tourism de-
velopment vary depending on an interviewee’s values
and economic situation. Similar results were found by
Ap and Crompton [22], Ryan and Montgomery [41],
Haralambopolous and Pizam [14], Lawson et al. [42] and
Mason and Cheyne [29]. Jurowski et al. [4] found that
the perception of tourism’s impacts is a result of assess-
ing benefits and costs and that the evaluation is influ-
enced by residents’ values. In Peterborough, many young
people strongly believe that there exists a polarized
economy and different economic and social classes.
Whether this is true or because many young people tend
to see the world in black and white we could not deter-
mined, nevertheless the belief is real. The more affluent,
older population, while it says it is strict about preserving
their current lifestyle and Peterborough’s character, are
willing to accept tolerable levels of price increases due to
tourism for more and improved options in their daily
Regarding the balance between local people’s lives
and tourism development, the current balance appears to
be acceptable to most people who do not want tourism
development to drastically change their lives. Most do
not want to see local stores driven out by big-box stores
and “high-brow” tourism-oriented shops. However, sev-
eral people mentioned that the downtown area is being
transformed from the heart of the town toward the center
of the affluent local community and tourists. Their
statements contain a degree of anxiety that Peterborough
might be changing towards a high-end tourism oriented
direction. Local people, especially working locals, think
the town’s shift toward affluent locals and tourists would
be accelerated by further tourism development.
The anxiety expressed by the working locals of a po-
larized economy and social classes due to tourism is
worrying. Their emphasis of increasing prices combined
with low salaries and unsustainable jobs created by tour-
ism may be a warning sign that a segment of Peterbor-
ough’s population, especially the young, may no longer
view Peterborough as their future and perceive tourism
as a catalyst for creating an affluent/tourists oriented
community. They want a community which provides
jobs that they can provide a living and afford having a
family but they do not expect tourism to do this in
Peterborough. Interestingly, industry people and affluent
locals did not emphasize a polarized economy and lim-
ited social interactions among locals. Rather their con-
cern is to preserve the town as it is. They support the
present situation that the downtown has no fast food
chains but high-end small cute shops and restaurants
which makes Peterborough attractive to tourists. Industry
people and affluent locals would not mind “high-end,
tourism-oriented” as it provides them with more options
and a better quality of life. As one of the interviewees
mentioned, Peterborough’s tourism is changing to immi-
gration based tourism (tourists are often becoming
part-time or full-time residents), and this immigration
based tourism is influencing economic and social struc-
ture of Peterborough and a possible cause for the per-
ceived economic polarization and divided social class.
We found two important, almost contradictory, senti-
ments towards tourism development (Table 4): 1) people
do not want to change their life style or the town for
tourism; and 2) people want to have the income and in-
creased options that tourism can provide.
A key question for the future is can these two senti-
ments be combined into a new consensus for tourism
development. Two possible outcomes are: 1) maintain-
ing the status quo and continue the current tourism di-
Table 4. Interviewees opinions on further tourism devel-
Against tourism development: For tourism development:
·Affluent locals who want to preserve
the town over increased options.
·Working locals who are aware of
tourism influence on more polarized
economy and divided social class.
·Small shop owners who are worried
about influence of large retail chain
stores on their business.
·Affluent locals who ap-
preciate more options in
restaurants and shops.
·Industry people who want
more tourists’ money for
their business.
Table 5. Economic and social cycle of Peterborough’s tour-
ism development
(1) local people preserve their town’s character;
(2) the attractiveness of the town for tourists increases;
(3) more tourists who are relatively wealthy come and love the
(4) more affluent people purchase homes and businesses in town;
(5) percentage of relatively wealthy local population increases in
(6) businesses in town change to cater to wealthy locals and tour-
(7) businesses become higher-end and more expensive as the town
is becoming more affluent people oriented;
(8) local people in working class and relatively young people can
no longer afford to live in town;
(9) a gap appears between the affluent locals/newcomers/tourists
and working locals;
(10) the more tourists who come, the more the economic and so-
cial polarization increases.
Copyright © 2009 SciRes JSSM
rection without major infrastructure development which
may increase the town’s polarization. If Peterborough
continues its current tourism direction, primarily day
tourism with tourist attracted by its quaint New England
atmosphere and high-end shops, the negative affects of
building more hotels and increasing tourism infrastruc-
ture development would be avoided. However, the
emerging economic polarization and divided social
classes could increase as Peterborough keeps going
“high-brow” to preserve its unique and cute New Eng-
land town and thus limiting economic opportunities for
many young and poorer people; and 2) increasing the
pace of tourism development in order to have more tour-
ists which will transform the town physically but possi-
bly provide more job options for the young and poorer
members of town. If hotels are built and public transporta-
tion improved, the type of tourism in Peterborough may
change from day tourism to overnight tourism. If this hap-
pens, the number of tourists may increase and more tourist
dollars will be spent. However in order to accommodate
the larger number of tourists Peterborough may face the
necessity of transforming their town physically and cultur-
ally, which many interviewees do not want.
Local people perceive the growing economic gap be-
tween affluent locals/ tourists and working locals as a
negative economic impact and are concerned about the
existing tourism development cycle which is further ac-
celerating economic polarization (Table 5). How Peter-
borough handles this cycle can be a model for other
communities. Peterborough must decide in which direc-
tion it wishes to go.
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