Tourism and Adaptive Capacity in an Alaskan Coastal Community

Authors: Ryan Naylor*, Pennsylvania State University, Carter Hunt, Pennsylvania State University
Topics: Tourism Geography
Keywords: institutions, collective action, livelihoods, adaptive capacity, sustainable development
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/8/2020
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 4:35 PM
Room: Director's Row E, Sheraton, Plaza Building, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Tourism occurs predominantly in island and coastal communities. The geography of Southeast Alaska differentially permits distinct forms of cruise tourism. With limited coastal access, Petersburg, Alaska has avoided large-scale cruise ships and has instead undergone an explosion of niche cruise tourism. This ethnographic study based on key informant interviews, participant observation, and archival research, found that Petersburg residents recognized the influence of this geography on the forms of tourism available to them, and that they actively contemplated the potential benefits and drawbacks of these forms of tourism and the types of tourists associated with them. Community decision-making conflicts revolve around several key themes: a) a desire for low volume, high economic impact tourism, b) a preference for host-guest interactions that feature legitimate and authentic cultural interactions, c) a growing acknowledgement that the emergence of tourism is providing a means of increased livelihood and community resilience in the face of growing instability in the traditional fishing sector, and d) a desire to avoid the forms of tourism that are evident in neighboring communities where tourism has entirely displaced fishing as the primary livelihood strategy. These conflicts are evident at the individual, borough, and regional scale levels. The ways that these conflicts and tourism-related opportunities are being negotiated are framed in relation to their implications for the adaptive capacity of Petersburg residents going forward.

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