This qualitative study investigates a rural community—Fort Davis, Texas—with an established heritage resource in the form of a National Historic Site. To determine what factors contribute to the success of this tourism site, the study examined the rhetorical visions in the community and their associated values.
The research methodology included ethnographic methods, Symbolic-Convergence Theory, and Variations in Value Orientations. The ethnographic data consisted of observations and analysis of four sets of data: local Web pages, interviews, essays, and posters. The essays and posters resulted from a contest held at the local elementary school in grades Kindergarten through six. Six Web pages were reviewed, six interviews conducted, six essays used, and seven posters evaluated.
The data from these four sources were analyzed using Bormann's (1985) fantasy-theme analysis, also know as Symbolic-Convergence Theory, to delineate the rhetorical visions in the community of Fort Davis, Texas. After the visions were defined, Kluckhohn and Strodbeck's (1961) Values Orientation Model (VOM), with modifications, was applied to the visions to find the values in the visions and to substanciate the visions.
This research reveals three rhetorical visions and associated values to help explain the success of this rural community's tourism site. After delineating the visions, I offer indicators based on those visions that help define what makes a site successful, including: an attractive physical location, a strong historical ambiance, a prominent cultural/state identity, an active historical preservation group, resident "buy in" to the benefits of tourism, a spirit of entreprenuership, long-term outside funding for the site, and friendly local residents who welcome visitors to their town. The indicators of a successful site can be used by other rural communities wishing to elaborate on their own heritage resources. In so doing, they can develop and promote that resource for the benefit of their local economies in what is rapidly replacing other means of income in foundering communities—tourism.