Agricultural Economics Department


Date of this Version



Published in Cornhusker Economics, 5-14-08. Produced by the Cooperative Extension, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Nebraska – Lincoln.


Rural communities, not only in the United States but also in foreign countries, are increasingly looking toward the tourism industry as a source for potential economic growth. One particular aspect of tourism, nature-based tourism, is often a good match for rural areas. Historically, businesses that provided hunting and fishing were some of the first nature-based tourism ventures. But today, nature-based tourism in rural areas encompass everything from guesthouse lodging and catering, to bird watching, canoeing and ranch or farm stays.

A 2008 article in Great Plains Research highlighted research results from a survey of business owners involved in rural tourism ventures in North Dakota, Nebraska’s Great Plains neighbor to the north. The purpose of the study was to: 1) identify opportunities for expanding the tourism sector in the southwestern, eight-county region of North Dakota, 2) identify challenges and obstacles facing the business owners, and 3) frame key issues and outline potential options for area decision makers.

The authors (Hodur, Leistritz, Wolf) made a convincing case for taking a closer look at this sector: the increase of acres in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and the resulting growth in wildlife populations had supported the increase in hunting, which sparked other businesses opportunities in several rural regions of that state. In addition to this fundamental environmental change, increasing land values in primarily agricultural areas due to recreational land use also created the need for a better understanding of this tourism sector.

The data for the study was gathered in 2003 from both a statewide (n = 194) and a regional mail survey (n = 38) of tourism-focused business owners, focus group interviews of owners and individual interviews with local community leaders.