Rural Tourism

Rural TourismRural tourism may be defined as the movement of people from their normal place of residence to rural areas for a minimum period of twenty-four hours to the maximum of six months for the sole purpose of leisure and pleasure. Rural tourism refers to all tourism activities in a rural area.

The concept of rural tourism is by no means well defined and is subject to a number of interpretation. Fleischer and Pizam associate rural tourism with the ‘country vacation’ where the tourist spends the vast proportion of his/her vacation period engaging in recreational activities in a rural environment on a farm, ranch, country home, or the surrounding areas.

OECD defines the rural area as, ” at the local level, a population density of 150 persons per square kilometer is the preferred criterion. At the regional level, geographic units are grouped by the share of their population that is rural into the following three types: predominantly rural (50%), significantly rural (15-50%) and predominantly urbanized regions (15%).

The Council of Europe employed the term ‘rural area‘ to denote the following characteristics:

A stretch of inland or coastal countryside, including small towns and villages, where the main part of the area is used for:

  1. Agriculture, forestry, aquaculture, and fisheries.
  2. Economic and cultural activities of country-dwellers.
  3. Non-urban recreation and leisure areas or nature reserves.
  4. Other purposes such as housing.

According to Dernoi, rural tourism might be conceived as tourism activities in a ‘non-urban territory where human (land-related economic) activity is going on, primarily agriculture: a permanent human presence seems a qualifying requirement’.

The OECD states rural tourism should be:

  • Located in rural areas.
  • Functionally rural, built upon the rural world’s special features; small-scale enterprises, open space, contact with nature and the natural world, heritage, traditional societies, and traditional practices.
  • Rural in scale – both in terms of building and settlements – and therefore, small scale.
  • Traditional in character, growing slowly and organically, and connected with local families.
  • Sustainable – in the sense that its development should help sustain the special rural character of an area, and in the sense that its development should be sustainability in its use of resources.
  • Of many different kinds, representing the complex pattern of the rural environment, economy, and history.

Types and Forms of Rural Tourism

Any forms of tourism that showcases the rural life, art, culture, and heritage at rural locations, thereby benefiting the local community economically and socially as well as enabling interaction between the tourists and the locals for a more enriching tourism experience can be termed as rural tourism.

A variety of terms are employed to describe tourism activity in rural areas: agritourism, farm tourism, rural tourism, soft tourism, alternative tourism, eco-tourism, and several others, which have a different meaning from one country to another, and indeed from one country to another.

The term ‘rural tourism’ has been adopted by the European Community (EC) to refer to all tourism activity in a rural area.

Types and forms of rural tourism are following as:

Agritourism: although often used to describe all tourism activities in rural areas, more frequently either term relates to tourism products which are ‘directly connected with the agrarian environment, agrarian products or agrarian stays’: staying at farm, whether in rooms or camping, educational visits, meals, recreational activities, and the sale of farm product or handicrafts.

Farm Tourism: explicitly farm-related and most usually associated with tourism involving staying in farm accommodation and seeking experiences from farm operations and attractions.

Wilderness and Forest Tourism: tourist explores the wilderness and natural beauty of the rural area. It may be implicitly included within notions of rural tourism, or they may be regarded as separate. In wilderness and forest tourism, tourists travel to the natural habitat of plants and animals.

It mostly encompasses non-consumptive interactions with wildlife and nature, such as observing and photographing animals in their natural habitats. Wilderness and forest tourism includes various tourism activities such as wild photography, safari, bird watching, trekking, and hiking etc.

Green Tourism: green tourism refers to tourism in the countryside or green areas. It is more commonly used to describe forms of tourism that are considered to be more environmentally friendly than traditional, mass tourism. In rural areas, green tourism is an important form of rural tourism.

Green tourism is portrayed as an approach to tourism development which seeks to develop a symbiotic relationship with the physical and social environment on which it depends and implicitly seeks to attain sustainability ideals.

Ecotourism: it is a form of nature tourism (tourism to natural, unspoiled areas) which assumes active promotion of environmental conservation and direct benefits for local societies and cultures, together with the provision for tourists of a positive, educative experience. Ecotourism is a group of sustainable tourism activities occurred in the natural environment.

Rural Tourism Activities

Various estimates suggest that tourism in rural areas makes up 10 to 20% of all tourism activity, and a Eurobarometer survey reported that 23% of European holidaymakers choose the countryside or rural areas as a destination every year.

Various cultural and nature-based activities occur in rural areas. The rural environment has a long history of being managed for recreational purposes, and this symbiotic relationship has had important impacts on both environment and activities.

A range of tourism and recreation activities are found in the countryside. We can categorize these activities on the bases of their nature. Types of rural tourism activities are following as:

  • Touring
  • Cultural activities
  • Water-related activities
  • Health-related activities
  • Aerial activities
  • Passive activities
  • Sporting activities
  • Hallmark events
  • Business-related activities

Touring include various tourism activities such as hiking, horse riding, touring in gypsy caravans, motorized touring, small village/town touring, cycling, adventure holiday or wilderness holidays.

Various cultural related tourism activities are found in rural areas. Archaeology, restoration sites rural heritage studies, museums, courses in crafts, artistic expression workshops are some examples of the cultural activities of rural tourism.

Fishing, swimming, river tourism, canoeing, kayaking, windsurfing, speedboat racing, sailing are some examples of water-related activities of rural tourism.

A variety of sporting activities of rural tourism are found in rural areas. Some examples are potholing, rock climbing, orienteering, Tennis, Golf, low-intensity downhill skiing, and hunting.

Health-related activities such as fitness training, assault course, spa and health resorts are the popular activities of rural tourism. A large group of tourists travels to rural areas for the sole purpose of health improvement through health-related tourism activities.

Passive activities such as relaxation holidays in the rural milieu, nature study in outdoor settings including birdwatching and photography, landscape appreciation are also some famous activities of rural tourism.

Importance and Benefits of Rural Tourism

Rural tourism is an important form of tourism sector which plays an important role and gives many benefits to rural areas community. When tourists travel to rural areas, they support the local economy and helps in various way. Rural tourism helps in the development of rural areas and living standards of host communities.

Some importance and benefits of rural tourism are following as:

  • Provides a source of new, alternative or supplementary income and employment in rural areas.
  • Rural tourism spurs infrastructure development in rural areas.
  • Help to reduce gender and other social power
  • Encourage collective community
  • Reinvigorate local culture.
  • Instill the sense of local pride, self-esteem, and identity
  • Contribution to conservation and protection.
  • Increase the living standards of the local community.
  • Assists refurbishment and re-use of abandoned properties.
  • Provide opportunities for retaining population in areas that might otherwise experience depopulation.
  • Enable areas to be repopulated.

Rural tourism is a growing form of tourism. It is not just farm stays or visits to rural areas. It is more than that. Rural tourism benefits the host community of rural areas as well as surrounding natural environment through preservation and conservation of natural resources.

Rural Tourism Issues and Challenges

The major issues and challenges of rural tourism need to preserve the environment an natural resources, the need of education, proper understanding for both tourists and local people, and the need to generate a democratic movement which helps people at all levels to participate in tourism development.

Some important issues and challenges of rural tourism are following as:

  • Economic Leakages.
  • Local price inflation.
  • Distort local employment structure.
  • Seasonal patterns of demands.
  • Manufacture or distort local ‘culture’ for commodification and staged authenticity.
  • Destroy indigenous culture.
  • Natural habitat destruction of rural wildlife.
  • Littering, emission and other forms of pollution.
  • Congestion.

The cooperative system in rural tourism can be an effective approach in bringing positive impact in rural areas. Local people can monitor and control the negative impacts of rural tourism on their own society, if they have an equal stake and authority in management and development.

Characteristics of Rural Tourism

The concept of rural tourism has a noble cause. It is another kind of sustainable tourism that exploits resources in rural regions, causes little or no harmful impact, and generates increasing benefits to rural areas in term of rural productivity, employment, improved distribution of wealth, conservation of the rural environment and culture, local people’s involvement, and a suitable way of adapting traditional beliefs and values to modern time.

Some characteristics features of rural tourism are following as:

  • Seasonality
  • Fragmentation
  • External market needed
  • Co-operation needed between internal and external market
  • Role of women
  • Economic role: side income for farmers and other entrepreneurs in the rural area.

Rural tourism could help in boosting the local performing arts and help conserve the local culture and can prevent rural migration. Rural tourism could attract the tourists by providing an excellent glimpse of the village ambiance with local cuisine.

Rural Tourism Development

Rural tourism development is more than just a planned process. Using an actor-oriented approach, it can be seen as a dynamic, on-going socially constructed and negotiated process that involves many social actors who continuously reshape and transform it to fit it to their perceptions, needs, values, and agendas.

A model of sustainable rural tourism
A model of sustainable rural tourism development.

Rural tourism development attracted increasing in the 1990s and a growing literature has contributed to our understanding of it as an evolving phenomenon.

According to Long and Lane, rural tourism has moved into its second phase of development, it’s first having been characterized by growth in participation, product and business development, and partnership. In their review of rural tourism development, Long and Lane argue that rural tourism- at least in Europe and North America – is entering a more complex phase of expansion, differentiation, consolidation, and understanding.

Its second predicted to be more complex, and is likely to be, given the questions that remain regarding its place in policy, its integration in practice, and its dynamic role within the restructuring countryside and within wider tourism development processes.

As tourism continues to be developed in rural areas in order to counter the economic decline in the primary production sectors, the need for sustainable forms of development is recognized. Since the early 1990s, the concept of sustainable tourism development has achieved almost universal acceptance as a desirable and appropriate approach to, and goal of, tourism development.

Rural tourism development has been driven by the need for economic growth and diversification and it is important, therefore, that tourism’s potential contribution to rural economic growth is not diluted by the over-specificity of principles of sustainable tourism.