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Rural tourism

Rural tourism may encompass many different activities.
© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0 Images © Getty Images

Rural tourism may encompass many different activities. The only seeming commonality between the various activities now seems to be that they do not or cannot take place in the urban environment.

Tourism that focuses on actively participating in a rural lifestyle. It can be a variant of ecotourism. Many rural villages can facilitate tourism because many villagers are hospitable and eager to welcome (and sometime even host) visitors. Agriculture is becoming highly mechanized and therefore, requires less manual labor. This trend is causing economic pressure on some villages, which in turn causes young people to move to urban areas. There is, however, a segment of the urban population that is interested in visiting the rural areas and understanding the lifestyle. This segment in the tourism industry has been rapidly growing in the past decade, leading to rural tourism becoming not just a good business prospect, but a genuine vacation trend.
(Information Resources Management Association, 2014, p. 197)
As we have said, rural tourism is a subset of ecotourism but it can also be further divided into agricultural and community tourism (as well as others).
Agritourism was initially agriculturally-based with the objective of promoting rural life and supplementing agricultural income, and many still use this definition or similar:
… a commercial enterprise at a working farm, ranch, or agricultural plant conducted for the enjoyment of visitors that generates supplemental income for the owner.
(University of California, 2019)
However, the use of the term agriculture has changed so much for some that it now:
…refers to the tourist activity that is developed in rural regions through small units of familial or cooperative character, aiming at the creation of additional employment and income among the local population.
(Lantitsou, 2017)
This definition by Lantitsou makes no differentiation between Agritourism and Community tourism, while the University of California differentiates between agritourism and other types of rural tourism:
…rural tourism enterprises do not necessarily occur on a farm or ranch, or at an agricultural plant, they do not generate supplemental income for the agricultural enterprise.
(University of California, 2019)
Community tourism is at the opposite end of the tourism spectrum to mass tourism. It started in the mid-1990s and involves local residents inviting tourists into their communities, and often homes.
Community-based tourism is essentially a bottom-up approach to development, which provides a platform for local community to generate economic benefits through offering their products (which originate from the local communities, lifestyles, natural resources, and cultures) to tourists.
It involves all-inclusive community participation at all levels including planning, decision-making, implementation, responsibility, and ownership as tourists enjoy a culturally authentic experience with their hosts, who in turn gain heightened awareness and pride as their natural and cultural heritage and wisdom function as a source of economic and social well-being (Donny & Mohd Nor, 2012).

Your task

Do you know of examples where rural tourism has really worked, creating a thriving destination area as well as meeting the demands of tourists? Discuss your answers, and your reasons, in the comments.

Further information

Rural tourism


Community-based tourism


Lantitsou, K. (2017). Alternative tourism forms: The example of drymia in eastern macedonia – Thrace District. Management of Environmental Quality: An International Journal, 28(3), 368-383.

Information Resources Management Association. (2014). Hospitality, travel, and tourism: Concepts, methodologies, tools, and applications: Concepts, methodologies, tools, and applications. (Three Volumes edition). IGI Global.

Donny, S., & Mohd Nor, N. (2012, September 3-5). Community-based tourism (CBT): Local community perceptions toward social and cultural impacts [Conference presentation]. 1st Tourism and Hospitality International Conference, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

University of California (2019). What is Agritourism?

© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0 Images © Getty Images
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