An Evaluation of the Levels of Entrepreneurship and Competitive Advantages in Small Midwestern Agritourism Businesses

Chiang, Lanlung
Major Professor
Liang Tang
Robert Bosselman
Committee Member
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Apparel, Events and Hospitality Management

Agritourism is a business concept that merges two areas (e.g., agricultural and travel/tourism) to open up new profitable markets and provide travel experiences for the purpose of enjoyment, education, or active involvement in the activities of a farm or operation (e.g., Aronoff & Ward, 1995; Hegarty & Przezbórska, 2005). Bock (2004) stated that agritourism plays a significant support role for many agricultural enterprises, while Kunwar (2004) suggested that agritourism experiences are becoming a desirable option in today's leisure society. With an explicit need to generate tangible benefits (e.g., diversified income sources and increased public appreciation), farmers are expected to become increasingly entrepreneurial in their business approaches, including adopting business plans for agritourism; seeking professional advice; becoming involved in regional and larger-scale tourism marketing initiatives; and increasing profitability through diversification (Getz & Carlsen, 2000). However, a number of previous studies have indicated that many farmers are unsuccessful in running agritourism businesses due to their lack of understanding of entrepreneurship concepts and strategies (Colton & Bissix, 2005; McGehee & Kim, 2004). In addition to entrepreneurial motivations, some studies have addressed the characteristics and performance of the farm and agritourism entrepreneur (Gilmore, Carson, & Cummins, 2002; Russell & Faulkner, 2004). The study aims to answer three key questions: 1) How do the levels of locus of control, firm profitability, market-driven propensity, family connection, personal pursuits, and innovation/creativity influence farmers' entrepreneurial awareness in agritourism business; 2) How do the two types of business strategies (defender and analyzer) impact farmers' decisions in running agritourism business; and 3) Do entrepreneurship and strategies directly impact agritourism businesses' competitiveness (e.g, economic impact, joint marketing, environmental sustainability, and public/social awareness)? The results of the present study are of importance to both academics and industry practitioners.