Repository logo

Regional dimensions of agritourism: exploring spatial and traveler heterogeneity




Van Sandt, Anders, author
Thilmany McFadden, Dawn, advisor
Costanigro, Marco, committee member
Jablonski, Becca, committee member
Weiler, Stephan, committee member

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


This dissertation employs a three-pronged approach to explore how locational, firm, and traveler heterogeneity lead to different opportunities or barriers in the budding U.S. agritourism industry. While each chapter considers a different aspect of the agritourism industry using unique empirical methods of analyses and sources of data, each chapter utilizes spatial economic methods to analyze different aspects of agritourism in the U.S. The first chapter applies firm level data and a two-stage model to test the importance of three trade theories in identifying comparative advantages in agritourism. Findings from this first essay imply that while some comparative advantages may be due to the productive and technological efficiencies of an agricultural operation, locational characteristics such as natural endowments (including natural amenities, farm production type, and proximities to other tourism attractions and population centers) are the primary source of attraction for agritourists. This essay also finds strong evidence of economies of agglomeration within the agritourism industry, signaling the need for future research to explore the potential within- and between-industry benefits from developing agritourism clusters. The second essay estimates the consumer surplus derived from agritourism in the Western U.S. using a flexible travel cost model and survey data. In addition to providing par-worth consumer surplus measures across multiple regions, agritourism activities, and travelers, the method includes a detailed examination of how sunk costs of primary travel destinations may influence consumer welfare estimates for other site visits on trips. Findings show that this mismeasurement inflicts a bias, called the multi-destination bias, that differs depending on the relative price and rurality of the recreational activity. Finally, the chapter includes a discussion on how relative elasticities may be used by agritourism operators and rural economic development practitioners to leverage their locational and site specific comparative advantages in agritourism. The third and final essay analyzes primary data from a choice experiment in a latent class logit framework to investigate how consumers' home surroundings influence their willingness to pay for various agritourism qualities when choosing among destinations. After identifying each of the market segments and how they differ in regards to their agritourism preferences, the membership covariates are used to create willingness to pay maps using kriging, a geostatistical interpolation method. Maps and willingness to pay estimates from this analysis may be used by agritourism operators and tourism development practitioners to target marketing efforts in regions with significantly higher willingness to pay values. By understanding how agritourism demand and supply factors differ, farmers and ranchers will be able to identify and leverage their natural, firm, and community strengths to develop successful agritourism enterprises. While agritourism is a relatively well-established industry in Europe, research opportunities to inform the US sector still exist. From the diversity of American agricultural producers, to exploring the potential spillover benefits to communities, and the demand shifts that may arise alongside the U.S. public's growing interest in food makes, there are several motivations for further research on this. Directions for future research are outlined at the end of each essay, as well as at the end of the conclusion.


2018 Summer.
Includes bibliographical references.

Rights Access


recreational demand
regional development
local foods systems


Associated Publications