A gap analysis of farm tourism microentrepreneurial mentoring needs in North Carolina, USA
Tourism is frequently proposed as a strategy to revitalize rural economies. The current mushrooming of web platforms for the tourism sharing economy affords rural microentrepreneurs opportunities to capitalize on the growing demand for authentic experiences. However, these platforms may actually be widening the socio-economic gap between individuals across the digital and urban/ rural divides. In addition, the well-established urban culture of entrepreneurial mentorship is not taking hold in the rural areas, which direly need to attract and support nascent entrepreneurs. Farms are increasingly adopting tourism to diversify their business models, and Extension agents are trusted mentors par excellence of agribusiness entrepreneurs; therefore, this study explores the extent to which Extension agents feel able to address the mentoring needs of farm tourism microentrepreneurs. We measured both tourism e-microentrepreneurial self-efficacy (TeMSE) among farmers and tourism e-microentrepreneurial mentoring self-efficacy (TeMMSE) of Extension agents. Results show that farmers have relatively low self-efficacy in the dimensions of e-marketing and marshalling resources, and that agents may be efficacious mentors in these dimensions. Farmers also show low self-efficacy in adapting to externalities; however, agents do not perceive themselves as efficacious mentors in this dimension. We conclude with a discussion of practical implications for train-the-trainer strategies to enable farm tourism microentrepreneurship success.
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