Assessing Cultural and Heritage Tourism: Moving from Case Study to a Standardized Impact Assessment Approach Grant uri icon



  • Rural communities in Idaho may benefit from business and economic development that links heritage and cultural assets, including agricultural enterprises, to create a sustainable, place-based and regionally integrated economy more resilient to the booms and busts of traditional resource based industries. This kind of strategy focuses on complementing commodity and export oriented production with a robust economic sector of fine arts, hand-crafted products and locally grown and processed foods that both attracts visitors and provides import substitutions for local residents. This project will examine the impact of a cultural tourism development effort called Two Degrees Northwest: Where Art Meets the Land (2DNW) in north central Idaho and southeastern Washington. The mission of 2DNW is work to support and create opportunities for cultural economic development; to cooperatively market the region?Ts arts, foods and heritage; and to link the region?Ts arts and fine crafts to other locally made products such as foods, wines, unique sites, services, and experiences. This program, like a number of similar efforts around the country is predicated on the notion that locally made arts, crafts, foods and wines, and the unique people and places of a region are vital to a place-based economy, where dollars are firmly tied to work that grows from the local landscape, heritage and culture. In the seven north central counties of Idaho included in this program, overall employment has rapidly declined in recent years, poverty rates have averaged 17 percent and unemployment doubled between December 2007 and December 2008. Empirical data about cultural and place-based economic development efforts is scarce. Many community and economic development programs exist, but there are no common metrics to evaluate the relative cost effectiveness of different approaches. This research represents a significant step in quantifying these types of development efforts and documenting the social impacts of a regional entrepreneurship and cultural tourism program. After evaluating and comparing our case study other case studies, we will collaborate with researchers and organizations across the country to develop a model for assessing the impact of place-based programs. A nationwide survey in 1999 estimated that the direct impact from sales of handmade crafts in America totaled 14 billion dollars, with over 100,000 craftspeople working in the country (Dave & Evans, 2001). In a regional study of northern Wisconsin, the total economic contribution of artists and artisans was estimated to be over 31 million dollars per year (Hembd & Dane, 2006). This data suggests the potential economic return to the north central Idaho region and similar areas for developing arts and heritage economies is great. Additionally, quantifying the contributions of food and heritage tourism will contribute to our knowledge about the cluster of industries that typically develop together through cultural tourism programs (i.e., local food/ag/cuisine; arts and crafts and heritage).

date/time interval

  • July 1, 2009 - June 30, 2014

sponsor award ID

  • IDA01386