Adventure and excitement — along with safety and hospitality — are key interests for tourists when choosing a destination, according to new academic research co-authored by a Unity College professor.

“Promoting Economic Development with Tourism in Rural Communities: Destination Image and Motivation to Return or Recommend,” is published in the current issue of The Journal of Extension.

“Our goal was to better understand the characteristics of tourists who seek out rural destinations such as Wisconsin’s Kickapoo Valley,” says James T. Spartz, Assistant Professor of Environmental Communications at Unity College and co-author of the study.

Using data from surveys of out-of-town visitors, Spartz and two University of Wisconsin – Madison colleagues found that tourists are motivated to find excitement and adventure in these rural areas and appreciate destinations that are clean and hospitable. Further, whether visitors have been to the area more than once makes it much more likely that they will return to or recommend the area to others.

This research, Spartz says, is very relevant to other rural destinations such as Maine where tourism can be strong in the summer but where community leaders may want to bolster visits in the so-called shoulder months. “We wanted to better understand ‘destination perceptions’ of an area, to see what motivates people to visit as well as to return or to recommend it as a place for others to enjoy.”

The Journal of Extension is the official refereed journal of the U.S. Cooperative Extension System, and serves as a forum for emerging and contemporary issues affecting Extension education.

“James’s work is a great example of how applied environmental research can have financial as well as social benefits for states concerned with raising their profile in the tourism industry,” said Dr. Melik Peter Khoury, Unity College executive vice president and chief academic officer.

Spartz teaches several core courses in the Environmental Writing and Media Studies major at Unity, including New Media, Environmental Communication and, most recently, a Technical Writing course focused on science writing for lay audiences. He is a graduate of the Mass Communication Ph.D. program of the University of Wisconsin’s Department of Life Sciences Communication.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015