Tourism has been recognized as an important economic sector, requiring a high degree of involvement from the entrepreneurial sector to diversify tourism products and services to meet increasing demand. Tourism is often considered a tool for economic development and a strategy to improve the livelihoods of rural citizens. Specifically, nature-based tourism, such as wildlife tourism, is growing faster than tourism in general, providing a myriad of opportunities for small-scale entrepreneurial engagement. However, several obstacles exist for these small-scale tourism enterprises, such as a lack of social capital. This study examined a network of wildlife tourism microentrepreneurs for bonding and bridging forms of social capital using a social network analysis approach, where bonding and bridging social capital have their own interpretation. Thirty-seven in-person interviews were conducted with wildlife tourism microentrepreneurs from North Carolina’s Pamlico Sound Region. The study revealed that microentrepreneurs interacted with each other in a bridging network structure. The ability to reciprocate with other members of the network was essential for business success. The results identified four key bridging ties connecting potential sub-groups in the network, connected to each other in a redundant fashion. We concluded that the formation of a bridging network structure was a function of entrepreneurial phenomena that may not promote a highly trusted, well-connected network. The findings and implications are further discussed in the paper.
Birendra, K. C.; Morals, Duarte B.; Seekamp, Erin; Smith, Jordan W.; and Peterson, M. Nils, "Bonding and Bridging Forms of Social Capital in Wildlife Tourism Microentrepreneurship: An Application of Social Network Analysis" (2018). Environment and Society Faculty Publications. Paper 1545.