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True Romania

In Romania traditions are best kept in rural areas. In these Romanian rural tours, we want to show you how subsistence farmers still mow hay by hand and carry it by horse cart or how shepherds still tend their sheep and make cheese like centuries ago. Or how craftsmen carry on crafts which are slowly disappearing. Around Easter, Christmas and other religious holidays there are many traditions and people still wear traditional clothes and go to pray in centuries old churches. And like anywhere, people from the smaller villages are the most hospitable and welcoming you can find in the country.

And it is villages which are the closest to the most untamed and beautiful nature in the country so they are ideal starting points for walks , wildlif e and w ildflowers observation .

Here are our top recommendations for active and rural tourism  in Romania .

Velo-Transylvania cycling tour in Romania

Velo-Transylvania cycling tour in Romania

Hiking Tour of Romania - Retezat Mountains

Hiking Tour of Romania

Discover the picturesque hiking trails of the Carpathians

Explore the majestic Carpathian Mountains  during this 9-day hiking tour of Transylvania. You will  climb high peaks, pass by impressive rock formations  and admire idyllic panoramas. But you will also get to  discover the gentle hilly landscapes  where sheep graze in the summer or  walk through vegetable-rich gorges.

To make this a memorable trip, you’ll also  explore the beautiful medieval town of Sibiu  and the famous castles of Transylvania: Bran and Peles.

Maramures and Bucovina Tour

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Rural tourism has a high potential to stimulate local economic growth and social change because of its complementarity with other economic activities, its contribution to GDP and job creation, and its capacity to promote the dispersal of demand in time (fight seasonality) and along a wider territory.

UN Tourism understands Rural Tourism as "a type of tourism activity in which the visitor’s experience is related to a wide range of products generally linked to nature-based activities, agriculture, rural lifestyle / culture, angling and sightseeing.

Rural Tourism activities take place in non-urban (rural) areas with the following characteristics: i) low population density, ii) landscape and land-use dominated by agriculture and forestry and iii) traditional social structure and lifestyle".

Best Tourism Villages by UNWTO

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With the vision of making tourism a positive force for transformation, rural development and community wellbeing, UN Tourism launched the ‘ Best Tourism Villages by UN Tourism ’ initiative.

It seeks to advance the role of tourism in valuing and safeguarding rural villages along with their associated landscapes, knowledge systems, biological and cultural diversity, local values and activities (agriculture, forestry, livestock and/or fisheries), including their gastronomy.

Tourism and Rural Development: Understanding Challenges on the Ground – Lessons learned from the Best Tourism Villages by UNWTO Initiative

Tourism and Rural Development: A Policy Perspective

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Tourism and Rural Development: A Policy Perspective - Results of the UN Tourism Survey on Tourism for Rural Development to Member States

Tourism and Rural Development: A Policy Perspective

Compilación de buenas prácticas del turismo indígena – Enfoque regional sobre las Américas

Tourism and Rural Development: A Policy Perspective

UN Tourism Recommendations on Tourism and Rural Development

Recommendations on Tourism and Rural Development

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AlUla Framework for inclusive Community Development through Tourism

AlUla Framework for inclusive Community Development through Tourism

The Framework provides guidance and inspiration to all governments, as well as all other key stakeholders in the tourism sector – including regional and local governments, the private sector, industry associations, civil society, communities and tourists – with the aim of fostering a truly holistic and integrated approach to inclusive community development through tourism.

  AlUla Framework for inclusive Community Development through Tourism

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International Rural Tourism Development – An Asia-Pacific Perspective

International Rural Tourism Development – An Asia-Pacific Perspective

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On the Rug Route in Romania , Kilims and an Enduring Culture

A road trip includes centuries-old churches, a welcoming winery and workshops and studios where weaving is an art.

rural tourism.ro

By Barbara Whitaker

Many years ago while living in South Africa I came across a Romanian kilim. Its pastel floral designs — a sampler of sorts — was captivating, but also beyond my budget. Decades passed, but it lingered in my memory every time I shopped for a rug to dress up a dreary room. Then I found myself living in Warsaw, Poland, last college tuition payment made, and Romania just a short flight away.

Inspired by the idea that I might find a wealth of kilims at bargain basement prices, I set off from Bucharest on a 10-day, 1,288-mile journey around the central European country in a small Dacia Logan stick shift in search of kilims and the people who still weave them.

From Bechet, a port town on the Danube River near the border of Bulgaria in the south, to Maramures, which borders Ukraine to the north, and then east to Bucovina, cutting south through Moldova back to Bucharest, I circled Romania in search of weavers still making kilims, one of the country’s highest forms of folk art.

The trip began with a 20-hour stay in Bucharest, long enough to visit Old Town and the Stavropoleos Monastery, the massive Palace of the Parliament and the Peasant Museum, where I met with Ana Iuga, who has an extensive background in kilims. The museum was closed for renovation, but lunch with Ms. Iuga, who wrote her thesis on rug-making in Maramures, paid off in terms of tips on where to look for kilims along the way. I was also helped by Unesco’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage sites, which includes “traditional wall-carpet craftsmanship” in Romania and the Republic of Moldavia. And Ruraltourism.ro was valuable in locating weavers I could stay with.

My first and worst mistake was deciding to save on data by using a map rather than online navigation to get out of Bucharest. There are few street signs and it took twice as long as I expected to reach Bechet (for nearly half the journey I was driving in the dark, dodging dogs, people walking down the center of the road and horse-drawn carts piled precariously high with everything from hay to workers).

Bechet is home to Arta La Sat, the weaving studio of Antoneta Nadu. The rug designs from this region, Oltenia, are typically based on nature, featuring flowers, trees and birds. They are my favorite — or at least I thought so at the beginning of the trip.

At the studio, two women, glancing down at patterns, worked side by side at a vertical loom that filled more than half a wall. Nearby another woman put the finishing touches on a rug she had been working on for nearly six weeks, while next to her a woman embroidered a shirt. (The rugs are not traditionally used on the floor, but hung on walls to help protect from the cold.) The workmanship was impeccable, making it impossible to tell which side should be displayed.

When it became apparent that language was an issue, Ms. Nadu called a young friend of the family who had mastered English by watching American cartoons. That enabled us to get down to business. I wanted to buy at least one large rug. On her website, prices vary based on size and intricacy of the designs, but they basically run from about $300 for a 3- feet -by- 6 feet rug to as much as $1,000 for a 6-feet-by-9-feet rug.

Because they are traditionally part of a woman’s dowry, I bought a medium-size rug in pastels as a wedding gift for my daughter who’s getting married later this month . But I wanted something very large for myself and nothing in the shop was the right color. Ms. Nadu went into her home and came back with a 70-year-old rug that had belonged to her mother. It was perfect, with a rich burgundy border and black center, featuring a botanical motif. Together the price of the rugs was 4,800 leu, which was less than buying them online. I only had 4,000 leu (about $1,000) to spend and she accepted it.

Having exhausted my questions and bank account, I headed to Domeniul Dragasi, a winery with a guesthouse overlooking the Olt River. Perhaps it was because I was the only guest that night but I was treated like royalty, with a personal wine tasting (higher quality than I expected), followed by a dinner of mixed bruschetta, duck confit with split peas, dessert and more wine. I was then escorted back to the guesthouse where I was tucked into a seat on the porch to watch a full moon rise over the Olt. Total price: about $120, including breakfast.

As I drove north, the roads became increasingly scenic, cutting through fields and pastures dotted with distinctive conical haystacks before ascending into the forested mountains of Maramures, home to centuries-old wooden churches, carved gates and small villages where life is dictated by the seasons and traditions.

There is not much in the way of restaurants or entertainment in Maramures. A visit is really more of an opportunity to get a glimpse of rural life while exploring the region’s history. My first stop was the Church of Archangels Michael and Gabriel in Rogoz, which dates to 1663. The church and a nearby ethnographic museum were locked up at 4 p.m., leaving me and some chickens to wander through the overgrown cemetery there.

From there it was an easy drive to Botiza, the home of Victoria Berbecaru , who is on the Unesco intangible list for her work reviving the art of weaving using hand-spun wool dyed naturally from things like leaves and nut shells.

The family created a small museum in a traditional wood home near the entrance to the village, with a guesthouse on the second floor. Ms. Berbecaru’s daughter, Ioana Pop, who speaks English, helps with guests. A family was already in the guesthouse so I was taken to the home of Maria Goldean, who lives in a quaint vine-covered cottage with her husband and has a more modern cinder block home on the property for travelers.

After I settled in, Mrs. Pop took me on a stroll through the village to look for weavers. Stops at two homes were disappointing; one of the women was no longer weaving and the other had put her loom away until winter. Discouraged, we decided to try just one more home, where we were greeted by Ioana Petreus, who was sitting on a bench outside her house spinning wool. She had been out all day foraging for mushrooms and her daughter was at the loom inside. The leaves, bark, nut shells and onion skins used to dye the yarn sat near her loom. She was one of Ms. Berbecara’s students, and typically weaves traditional patterns. For $15, I bought a placemat-size wall hanging that featured scenes from village life.

The next day, after a visit to a wooden church in the center of Botiza, notable for the eerie painting of “Death” on the back of its entry door, I drove north to Ieud in search of the Ples Museum , set in a 200-year-old homestead and said to display an array of items from a woman’s dowry.

It turned out to be the best day of the trip. Since it was a holiday, women gathered at the small museum to chat after services at Ieud’s Church on the Hill, also known as “The Birth of the Mother of God” church , built in 1364. According to its literature, it is the oldest wooden church in Romania. The museum, which is down the hill from the church, is filled with hand-woven rugs and blankets, embroidered cloths, hand-painted plates and other handiwork. An old wooden loom dominates the room, its parts worn smooth from years of use. Next to the loom, a doll the size of a toddler stands in a wooden contraption designed to keep a child contained within reach; behind that is a cradle that can be rocked by a pedal next to those on the loom.

Among the women at the museum were three generations of one family, the youngest of whom spoke English. Maria Pasca, 72, the matriarch, invited me to her home to see the room where she keeps the dowry items made by women in the family over the ages. With her granddaughter serving as interpreter, the women told stories about their lives and talked about the significance of the intricately woven rugs, embroidered sheets, shirts, pillowcases and other items that filled the room, floor to ceiling. Many homes in rural areas in Romania have dedicated rooms like this, which are used only on special occasions.

My last stop of the day was Sapanta, home of the Merry Cemetery , near the Ukrainian border. In 1935, a local artist and painter, Stan Ioan Patras, began a tradition of creating brightly painted grave markers inlaid with unique and often humorous epitaphs he wrote for young and old alike. Hundreds of bright blue markers fill the cemetery, which was packed with sightseers reading the inscriptions — some humorous, some sad, but all of them to the point.

I spent the night at Guesthouse Ileana ($30 a night, including breakfast) across the street from the cemetery, that the rural tourism website said organizes tours to visit weavers. In reality, I had to go no farther than a small covered area in the backyard where Maria Stetca, the guesthouse’s owner, and her mother, Iona Stetca, still weave on their 80-year-old horizontal loom. On a sunny Saturday, her mother worked on a striped wool blanket as Ms. Stetca spun wool nearby.

From Sapanta, I wound east through the Carpathian Mountains to Gura Humorului in Bucovina, a lovely if slow drive, passing through tree-covered mountains that open onto bucolic vistas. It’s a good place to stay when visiting the painted monasteries for which the region is known.

The first monastery I came to was Voronet, which is often referred to as the “Sistine Chapel of the East” for its detailed frescoes that draw on stories from the Bible. The best known of the frescoes, which date to the 15th and 16th centuries, is an intricate illustration of the Last Judgment on the monastery’s western end. Outside the monastery, vendors sell all sorts of weaving, embroidery and local crafts, but much of it is from China and not worth a second look.

After visiting five of the seven most well-preserved monasteries , I began my trip back to the Bucharest airport with two places left to visit: Agapia Monastery, where the nuns are known for their weaving, and the workshop of Maria Mihalachi in Baltatesti in Neamt County, who I found through the Association of Craftsmen in Neamt County .

The monastery’s weaving room has several giant vertical looms with rugs in various states of completion, but no one was working at them. Outside the monastery is a small museum with beautiful rugs from the past that the overseer is happy to spread out for display, but attempts to buy one were unsuccessful.

After a short and confusing drive, I finally found Ms. Mihalachi’s studio, which is in her house and was closed for renovation. Her husband, Julian Mihalachi, a chemist, was home and pulled out several rugs — notable for their geometric and linear designs — to illustrate their work, which involves teaching women how to weave, using old patterns and wool dyed naturally.

“Very few people weave now,” said Mr. Mihalachi, who assists his wife in the business. “It’s difficult now because kids prefer carpets.”

I hope that is not the case with my daughter. With her wedding just a few weeks away, I’ve taken her rug out of the closet and begun contemplating the future. She doesn’t really have much to constitute a dowry — a few quilts made by my mother, some embroidered pillowcases from her great-grandmothers and a set of Haviland china. But maybe those items — and the handmade kilim acquired on an indelible road trip through Romania — will be something meaningful to pass along for generations to come.

If you go to the Maramures villages

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Maramures (meaning “Big River,” for the Tisa River which flows through the area) is in northern Transylvania near the Ukraine border. Major cities are Baia Mare, the county seat; Satu Mare and Sighetu Marmatiei, the town closest to the Mara and Izei river valleys and the most interesting villages and historic churches.

Getting there:

Trains run between Bucharest and Baia Mare (11 hours), Sighet (14 hours). Satu Mare (13 hours) and other cities. Romania’s Air Tarom ( www.tarom.ro ) flies between Bucharest and Baia Mare (one hour). Tickets can be booked online.

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Buses go to the outlying villages, but schedules are limited. Hitchhiking is safe and many people do it. The best idea is to rent a car, hire a guide with a car or arrange transportation through a guesthouse.

There are hotels and hostels in each of the cities. Lodging in the villages is in private homes. The biggest concentration of guesthouses — more than 100 — is in Vadu Izei and Botiza, each with a population of around 3,000. Rates run $27-$34 per person per night for a double room with breakfast and dinner. Book through Foundation OVR (Operation Villages Romania) Agro-Tur-Art at www.vaduizei.ovr.ro or see www.pensiuni.info.ro and www.ruraltourism.ro .

Many of the old wooden homes have been restored with modern bathrooms and showers (most are shared). Others are more rustic, and some are new houses built of brick and concrete. We paid $34 per night with meals at Casa Borlean where we had one of seven rooms in two newly restored wooden houses. See www.pensiuni.info.ro or call 011-40-262-330228 (little English spoken). In Botiza, we paid $27 for one of two rooms in a more modern home owned by George and Mirela Iurca. Both speak English. Phone 011-40-262-334110 or e-mail [email protected].

Traveler’s tips

Many visitors like to spend their time getting to know one village, taking walks and chatting with the locals. Distances between the villages are short, and many are connected with walking paths. For in-depth exploring, it’s helpful to have an English-speaking guide with a car. Contact Nicolae Prisacaru, [email protected] or 011-40 -721- 046730 in Vadu Izei or George Iurca, [email protected] or 011-40-262-334110 in Botiza. Each charges about $27 per day plus mileage. Iurca also leads mountain hikes and walks.

More information

See www.romaniatourism.com or call 212-545-8484. See also www.vaduizei.ovr.ro, the Web site for Foundation OVR Agro-Tur-Art. Its office in Vadu Izei can arrange homestays, guides and tours. The best guidebooks are the “Rough Guide to Romania” and the Lonely Planet guide to Romania and Moldova.

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  • Published: 31 March 2023

The benefits of tourism for rural community development

  • Yung-Lun Liu 1 ,
  • Jui-Te Chiang 2 &
  • Pen-Fa Ko 2  

Humanities and Social Sciences Communications volume  10 , Article number:  137 ( 2023 ) Cite this article

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While the main benefits of rural tourism have been studied extensively, most of these studies have focused on the development of sustainable rural tourism. The role of tourism contributions to rural community development remains unexplored. Little is known about what tourism contribution dimensions are available for policy-makers and how these dimensions affect rural tourism contributions. Without a clear picture and indication of what benefits rural tourism can provide for rural communities, policy-makers might not invest limited resources in such projects. The objectives of this study are threefold. First, we outline a rural tourism contribution model that policy-makers can use to support tourism-based rural community development. Second, we address several methodological limitations that undermine current sustainability model development and recommend feasible methodological solutions. Third, we propose a six-step theoretical procedure as a guideline for constructing a valid contribution model. We find four primary attributes of rural tourism contributions to rural community development; economic, sociocultural, environmental, and leisure and educational, and 32 subattributes. Ultimately, we confirm that economic benefits are the most significant contribution. Our findings have several practical and methodological implications and could be used as policy-making guidelines for rural community development.

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In many countries, rural areas are less developed than urban areas. They are often perceived as having many problems, such as low productivity, low education, and low income. Other issues include population shifts from rural to urban areas, low economic growth, declining employment opportunities, the loss of farms, impacts on historical and cultural heritage, sharp demographic changes, and low quality of life. These issues indicate that maintaining agricultural activities without change might create deeper social problems in rural regions. Li et al. ( 2019 ) analyzed why some rural areas decline while others do not. They emphasized that it is necessary to improve rural communities’ resilience by developing new tourism activities in response to potential urban demands. In addition, to overcome the inevitability of rural decline, Markey et al. ( 2008 ) pointed out that reversing rural recession requires investment orientation and policy support reform, for example, regarding tourism. Therefore, adopting rural tourism as an alternative development approach has become a preferred strategy in efforts to balance economic, social, cultural, and environmental regeneration.

Why should rural regions devote themselves to tourism-based development? What benefits can rural tourism bring to a rural community, particularly during and after the COVID pandemic? Without a clear picture and answers to these questions, policy-makers might not invest limited resources in such projects. Understanding the contributions of rural tourism to rural community development is critical for helping government and community planners realize whether rural tourism development is beneficial. Policy-makers are aware that reducing rural vulnerability and enhancing rural resilience is a necessary but challenging task; therefore, it is important to consider the equilibrium between rural development and potential negative impacts. For example, economic growth may improve the quality of life and enhance the well-being index. However, it may worsen income inequality, increase the demand for green landscapes, and intensify environmental pollution, and these changes may impede natural preservation in rural regions and make local residents’ lives more stressful. This might lead policy-makers to question whether they should support tourism-based rural development. Thus, the provision of specific information on the contributions of rural tourism is crucial for policy-makers.

Recently, most research has focused on rural sustainable tourism development (Asmelash and Kumar, 2019 ; Polukhina et al., 2021 ), and few studies have considered the contributions of rural tourism. Sustainability refers to the ability of a destination to maintain production over time in the face of long-term constraints and pressures (Altieri et al., 2018 ). In this study, we focus on rural tourism contributions, meaning what rural tourism contributes or does to help produce something or make it better or more successful. More specifically, we focus on rural tourism’s contributions, not its sustainability, as these goals and directions differ. Today, rural tourism has responded to the new demand trends of short-term tourists, directly providing visitors with unique services and opportunities to contact other business channels. The impact on the countryside is multifaceted, but many potential factors have not been explored (Arroyo et al., 2013 ; Tew and Barbieri, 2012 ). For example, the demand for remote nature-based destinations has increased due to the fear of COVID-19 infection, the perceived risk of crowding, and a desire for low tourist density. Juschten and Hössinger ( 2020 ) showed that the impact of COVID-19 led to a surge in demand for natural parks, forests, and rural areas. Vaishar and Šťastná ( 2022 ) demonstrated that the countryside is gaining more domestic tourists due to natural, gastronomic, and local attractions. Thus, they contended that the COVID-19 pandemic created rural tourism opportunities.

Following this change in tourism demand, rural regions are no longer associated merely with agricultural commodity production. Instead, they are seen as fruitful locations for stimulating new socioeconomic activities and mitigating public mental health issues (Kabadayi et al., 2020 ). Despite such new opportunities in rural areas, there is still a lack of research that provides policy-makers with information about tourism development in rural communities (Petrovi’c et al., 2018 ; Vaishar and Šťastná, 2022 ). Although there are many novel benefits that tourism can bring to rural communities, these have not been considered in the rural community development literature. For example, Ram et al. ( 2022 ) showed that the presence of people with mental health issues, such as nonclinical depression, is negatively correlated with domestic tourism, such as rural tourism. Yang et al. ( 2021 ) found that the contribution of rural tourism to employment is significant; they indicated that the proportion of nonagricultural jobs had increased by 99.57%, and tourism in rural communities had become the leading industry at their research site in China, with a value ten times higher than that of agricultural output. Therefore, rural tourism is vital in counteracting public mental health issues and can potentially advance regional resilience, identity, and well-being (López-Sanz et al., 2021 ).

Since the government plays a critical role in rural tourism development, providing valuable insights, perspectives, and recommendations to policy-makers to foster sustainable policies and practices in rural destinations is essential (Liu et al., 2020 ). Despite the variables developed over time to address particular aspects of rural tourism development, there is still a lack of specific variables and an overall measurement framework for understanding the contributions of rural tourism. Therefore, more evidence is needed to understand how rural tourism influences rural communities from various structural perspectives and to prompt policy-makers to accept rural tourism as an effective development policy or strategy for rural community development. In this paper, we aim to fill this gap.

The remainder of this paper is organized as follows: the section “Literature review” presents the literature review. Our methodology is described in the section “Methodology”, and our results are presented in the section “Results”. Our discussion in the section “Discussion/implications” places our findings in perspective by describing their theoretical and practical implications, and we provide concluding remarks in the section “Conclusion”.

Literature review

The role of rural tourism.

The UNWTO ( 2021 ) defined rural tourism as a type of tourism in which a visitor’s experience is related to a wide range of products generally linked to nature-based activity, agriculture, rural lifestyle/culture, angling, and sightseeing. Rural tourism has been used as a valid developmental strategy in rural areas in many developed and developing countries. This developmental strategy aims to enable a rural community to grow while preserving its traditional culture (Kaptan et al., 2020 ). In rural areas, ongoing encounters and interactions between humans and nature occur, as well as mutual transformations. These phenomena take place across a wide range of practices that are spatially and temporally bound, including agriculture, forestry, fishing, hunting, farm tourism, cultural heritage preservation, and country life (Hegarty and Przezbórska, 2005 ). To date, rural tourism in many places has become an important new element of the regional rural economy; it is increasing in importance as both a strategic sector and a way to boost the development of rural regions (Polukhina et al., 2021 ). Urban visitors’ demand for short-term leisure activities has increased because of the COVID-19 pandemic (Slater, 2020 ). Furthermore, as tourists shifted their preferences from exotic to local rural tourism amid COVID-19, Marques et al. ( 2022 ) suggested that this trend is a new opportunity that should be seized, as rural development no longer relies on agriculture alone. Instead, other practices, such as rural tourism, have become opportunities for rural areas. Ironically, urbanization has both caused severe problems in rural areas and stimulated rural tourism development as an alternative means of economic revitalization (Lewis and Delisle, 2004 ). Rural tourism provides many unique events and activities that people who live in urban areas are interested in, such as agricultural festivals, crafts, historical buildings, natural preservation, nostalgia, cuisine, and opportunities for family togetherness and relaxation (Christou, 2020 ; Getz, 2008 ). As rural tourism provides visitors from urban areas with various kinds of psychological, educational, social, esthetic, and physical satisfaction, it has brought unprecedented numbers of tourists to rural communities, stimulated economic growth, improved the viability of these communities, and enhanced their living standards (Nicholson and Pearce, 2001 ). For example, rural tourism practitioners have obtained significant economic effects, including more income, more direct sales, better profit margins, and more opportunities to sell agricultural products or craft items (Everett and Slocum, 2013 ). Local residents can participate in the development of rural tourism, and it does not necessarily depend on external resources. Hence, it provides entrepreneurial opportunities (Lee et al., 2006 ). From an environmental perspective, rural tourism is rooted in a contemporary theoretical shift from cherishing local agricultural resources to restoring the balance between people and ecosystems. Thus, rural land is preserved, natural landscapes are maintained, and green consumerism drives farmers to focus on organic products, green chemistry, and value-added products, such as land ethics (Higham and Ritchie, 2001 ). Therefore, the potential contributions of rural tourism are significant and profound (Marques, 2006 ; Phillip et al., 2010 ). Understanding its contributions to rural community development could encourage greater policy-maker investment and resident support (Yang et al., 2010 ).

Contributions of rural tourism to rural community development

Maintaining active local communities while preventing the depopulation and degradation of rural areas requires a holistic approach and processes that support sustainability. What can rural tourism contribute to rural development? In the literature, rural tourism has been shown to bring benefits such as stimulating economic growth (Oh, 2005 ), strengthening rural and regional economies (Lankford, 1994 ), alleviating poverty (Zhao et al., 2007 ), and improving living standards in local communities (Uysal et al., 2016 ). In addition to these economic contributions, what other elements have not been identified and discussed (Su et al., 2020 )? To answer these questions, additional evidence is a prerequisite. Thus, this study examines the following four aspects. (1) The economic perspective: The clustering of activities offered by rural tourism stimulates cooperation and partnerships between local communities and serves as a vehicle for creating various economic benefits. For example, rural tourism improves employment opportunities and stability, local residents’ income, investment, entrepreneurial opportunities, agricultural production value-added, capital formation, economic resilience, business viability, and local tax revenue (Atun et al., 2019 ; Cheng and Zhang, 2020 ; Choi and Sirakaya, 2006 ; Chong and Balasingam, 2019 ; Cunha et al., 2020 ). (2) The sociocultural perspective: Rural tourism no longer refers solely to the benefits of agricultural production; through economic improvement, it represents a greater diversity of activities. It is important to take advantage of the novel social and cultural alternatives offered by rural tourism, which contribute to the countryside. For example, rural tourism can be a vehicle for introducing farmers to potential new markets through more interactions with consumers and other value chain members. Under such circumstances, the sociocultural benefits of rural tourism are multifaceted. These include improved rural area depopulation prevention (López-Sanz et al., 2021 ), cultural and heritage preservation, and enhanced social stability compared to farms that do not engage in the tourism business (Ma et al., 2021 ; Yang et al., 2021 ). Additional benefits are improved quality of life; revitalization of local crafts, customs, and cultures; restoration of historical buildings and community identities; and increased opportunities for social contact and exchange, which enhance community visibility, pride, and cultural integrity (Kelliher et al., 2018 ; López-Sanz et al., 2021 ; Ryu et al., 2020 ; Silva and Leal, 2015 ). (3) The environmental perspective: Many farms in rural areas have been rendered noncompetitive due to a shortage of labor, poor managerial skills, and a lack of financial support (Coria and Calfucura, 2012 ). Although there can be immense pressure to maintain a farm in a family and to continue using land for agriculture, these problems could cause families to sell or abandon their farms or lands (Tew and Barbieri, 2012 ). In addition, unless new income pours into rural areas, farm owners cannot preserve their land and its natural aspects; thus, they tend to allow their land to become derelict or sell it. In the improved economic conditions after farms diversify into rural tourism, rural communities have more money to provide environmental care for their natural scenic areas, pastoral resources, forests, wetlands, biodiversity, pesticide mitigation, and unique landscapes (Theodori, 2001 ; Vail and Hultkrantz, 2000 ). Ultimately, the entire image of a rural community is affected; the community is imbued with vitality, and farms that participate in rural tourism instill more togetherness among families and rural communities. In this study, the environmental benefits induced by rural tourism led to improved natural environmental conservation, biodiversity, environmental awareness, infrastructure, green chemistry, unspoiled land, and family land (Di and Laura, 2021 ; Lane, 1994 ; Ryu et al., 2020 ; Yang et al., 2021 ). (4) The leisure and educational perspective: Rural tourism is a diverse strategy associated with an ongoing flow of development models that commercialize a wide range of farming practices for residents and visitors. Rural territories often present a rich set of unique resources that, if well managed, allow multiple appealing, authentic, and memorable tourist experiences. Tourists frequently comment that the rural tourism experience positively contrasts with the stress and other negatively perceived conditions of daily urban life. This is reflected in opposing, compelling images of home and a visited rural destination (Kastenholz et al., 2012 ). In other words, tourists’ positive experiences result from the attractions and activities of rural tourism destinations that may be deemed sensorially, symbolically, or socially opposed to urban life (Kastenholz et al. 2018 ). These experiences are associated with the “search for authenticity” in the context of the tension between the nostalgic images of an idealized past and the demands of stressful modern times. Although visitors search for the psychological fulfillment of hedonic, self-actualization, challenge, accomplishment, exploration, and discovery goals, some authors have uncovered the effects of rural tourism in a different context. For example, Otto and Ritchie ( 1996 ) revealed that the quality of a rural tourism service provides a tourist experience in four dimensions—hedonic, peace of mind, involvement, and recognition. Quadri-Felitti and Fiore ( 2013 ) identified the relevant impact of education, particularly esthetics, versus memory on satisfaction in wine tourism. At present, an increasing number of people and families are seeking esthetic places for relaxation and family reunions, particularly amid COVID-19. Rural tourism possesses such functions; it remains a novel phenomenon for visitors who live in urban areas and provides leisure and educational benefits when visitors to a rural site contemplate the landscape or participate in an agricultural process for leisure purposes (WTO, 2020 ). Tourists can obtain leisure and educational benefits, including ecological knowledge, information about green consumerism, leisure and recreational opportunities, health and food security, reduced mental health issues, and nostalgia nurturing (Alford and Jones, 2020 ; Ambelu et al., 2018 ; Christou, 2020 ; Lane, 1994 ; Li et al., 2021 ). These four perspectives possess a potential synergy, and their effects could strengthen the relationship between rural families and rural areas and stimulate new regional resilience. Therefore, rural tourism should be understood as an enabler of rural community development that will eventually attract policy-makers and stakeholders to invest more money in developing or advancing it.


The literature on rural tourism provides no generally accepted method for measuring its contributions or sustainability intensity. Although many statistical methods are available, several limitations remain, particularly in terms of the item generation stage and common method bias (CMB). For example, Marzo-Navar et al. ( 2015 ) used the mean and SD values to obtain their items. However, the use of the mean has been criticized because it is susceptible to extreme values or outliers. In addition, they did not examine omitted variables and CMB. Asmelash and Kumar ( 2019 ) used the Delphi method with a mean value for deleting items. Although they asked experts to suggest the inclusion of any missed variables, they did not discuss these results. Moreover, they did not assess CMB. Islam et al. ( 2021 ) used a sixteen-step process to formulate sustainability indicators but did not consider omitted variables, a source of endogeneity bias. They also did not designate a priority for each indicator. Although a methodologically sound systematic review is commonly used, little attention has been given to reporting interexpert reliability when multiple experts are used to making decisions at various points in the screening and data extraction stages (Belur et al., 2021 ). Due to the limitations of the current methods for assessing sustainable tourism development, we aim to provide new methodological insights. Specifically, we suggest a six-stage procedure, as shown in Fig. 1 .

figure 1

Steps required in developing the model for analysis after obtaining the data.

Many sources of data collection can be used, including literature reviews, inferences about the theoretical definition of the construct, previous theoretical and empirical research on the focal construct, advice from experts in the field, interviews, and focus groups. In this study, the first step was to retrieve data from a critical literature review. The second step was the assessment of omitted variables to produce items that fully captured all essential aspects of the focal construct domain. In this case, researchers must not omit a necessary measure or fail to include all of the critical dimensions of the construct. In addition, the stimuli of CMB, for example, double-barreled items, items containing ambiguous or unfamiliar terms, and items with a complicated syntax, should be simplified and made specific and concise. That is, researchers should delete items contaminated by CMB. The third step was the examination of construct-irrelevant variance to retain the variances relevant to the construct of interest and minimize the extent to which the items tapped concepts outside the focal construct domain. Variances irrelevant to the targeted construct should be deleted. The fourth step was to examine intergroup consistency to ensure that there was no outlier impact underlying the ratings. The fifth step was to examine interexpert reliability to ensure rating conformity. Finally, we prioritized the importance of each variable with the fuzzy analytic hierarchy process (AHP), which is a multicriteria decision-making approach. All methods used in this study are expert-based approaches.

Selection of experts

Because this study explores the contributions of rural tourism to rural community development, it involves phenomena in the postdevelopment stage; therefore, a few characteristics are essential for determining the choice of experts. The elements used to identify the experts in this study were (1) the number of experts, (2) expertise, (3) knowledge, (4) diversity, (5) years working in this field, and 5) commitment to participation. Regarding the number of experts, Murphy-Black et al. ( 1998 ) suggested that the more participants there are, the better, as a higher number reduces the effects of expert attrition and rater bias. Taylor-Powell ( 2002 ) pointed out that the number of participants in an expert-based study depends not only on the purpose of the research but also on the diversity of the target population. Okoli and Pawlowski ( 2004 ) recommended a target number of 10–18 experts for such a purpose. Therefore, we recruited a group of 18 experts based on their stated interest in the topic and asked them to comment on our rationale concerning the rating priorities among the items. We asked them to express a degree of agreement or disagreement with each item we provided. We adopted a heterogeneous and anonymous arrangement to ensure that rater bias did not affect this study. The 18 experts had different backgrounds, which might have made it easier for them to reach a consensus objectively. We divided the eighteen experts into three subgroups: (1) at least six top managers from rural tourism businesses, all of whom had been in the rural tourism business for over 10 years; (2) at least six academics who taught subjects related to tourism at three different universities in Taiwan; and (3) at least six government officials involved in rural development issues in Taiwan.

Generating items to represent the construct

Step 1: data collection.

Data collection provides evidence for investigation and reflects the construct of interest. While there is a need to know what rural tourism contributes, previous studies have provided no evidence for policy-makers to establish a rural community strategy; thus, it is essential to use a second source to achieve this aim. We used a literature review for specific topics; the data we used were based on the findings being presented in papers on rural tourism indexed in the SSCI (Social Sciences Citation Index) and SCIE (Science Citation Index Expanded). In this study, we intended to explore the role of rural tourism and its contributions to rural development. Therefore, we explored the secondary literature on the state of the questions of rural development, sustainable development, sustainability indicators, regional resilience, farm tourism, rural tourism, COVID-19, tourist preferences, and ecotourism using terms such as land ethics, ecology, biodiversity, green consumerism, environmentalism, green chemistry, community identity, community integration, community visibility, and development goals in an ad hoc review of previous studies via Google Scholar. Based on the outcomes of this first data collection step, we generated thirty-three subattributes and classified them into four domains.

Step 2: Examine the face validity of omitted variables and CMB

Face validity is defined as assessing whether a measurement scale or questionnaire includes all the necessary items (Dempsey and Dempsey, 1992 ). Based on the first step, we generated data subattributes from our literature review. However, there might have been other valuable attributes or subattributes that were not considered or excluded. Therefore, our purposes for examining face validity were twofold. First, we assessed the omitted variables, defined as the occurrence of crucial aspects or facets that were omitted (Messick, 1995 ). These comprise a threat to construct validity that, if ignored by researchers, might result in unreliable findings. In other words, face validity is used to distinguish whether the researchers have adequately captured the full dimensions of the construct of interest. If not, the evaluation instrument or model is deficient. However, the authors found that most rural tourism studies have not assessed the issue of omitted variables (An and Alarcon, 2020 ; Lin, 2022 ). Second, we mitigated the CMB effect. In a self-report survey, it is necessary to provide a questionnaire without CMB to the targeted respondents, as CMB affects respondent comprehension. Therefore, we assessed item characteristic effects, item context effects, and question response process effects. These three effects are related to the respondents’ understanding, retrieval, mood, affectivity, motivation, judgment, response selection, and response reporting (Podsakoff et al., 2003 ). Specifically, items containing flaws from these three groups in a questionnaire can seriously influence an empirical investigation and potentially result in misleading conclusions. We assessed face validity by asking all the experts to scrutinize the content items that we collected from the literature review and the questionnaire that we drafted. The experts could then add any attribute or subattribute they thought was essential that had been omitted. They could also revise the questionnaire if CMB were embedded. We added the new attributes or subattributes identified by the experts to those collected from the literature review.

Step 3: Examine interexpert consensus for construct-irrelevant variances

After examining face validity, we needed to rule out items irrelevant to the construct of interest; otherwise, the findings would be invalid. We examined the interexpert consensus to achieve this aim. The purpose was to estimate the experts’ ratings of each item. In other words, interexpert consensus assesses the extent to which experts make the same ratings (Kozlowski and Hattrup, 1992 ; Northcote et al., 2008 ). In prior studies, descriptive statistics have often been used to capture the variability among individual characteristics, responses, or contributions to the subject group (Landeta, 2006 ; Roberson et al., 2007 ). Many expert-based studies have applied descriptive statistics to determine consensus and quantify its degree (Paraskevas and Saunders, 2012 ; Stewart et al., 2016 ). Two main groups of descriptive statistics, central tendencies (mode, mean, and median) and level of dispersion (standard deviation, interquartile, and coefficient of variation), are commonly used when determining consensus (Mukherjee et al., 2015 ). Choosing the cutoff point of interexpert consensus was critical because we used it as a yardstick for item retention and its value can also be altered by a number on the Likert scale (Förster and von der Gracht, 2014 ). In the case of a 5-point Likert scale, the coefficient of variation (CV) is used to measure interexpert consensus. Hence, CV ≤ 0.3 indicated high consensus (Zinn et al., 2001 ). In addition, based on the feedback obtained from the expert panel, we used standard deviation (SD) as another measurement to assess the variation in our population. Henning and Jordaan ( 2016 ) indicate that SD ≤ 1 represents a high level of consensus, meaning that it can act as a guideline for cutoff points. In addition, following Vergani et al. ( 2022 ), we used the percentage agreement (% AGR) to examine interexpert consensus. If the responses reached ≧ 70% 4 and 5 in the case of a 5-point Likert scale, it indicated that the item had interexpert consensus; thus, we could retain it. Moreover, to avoid the impact of outliers, we used the median instead of the mean as another measurement. Items had a high consensus if their median value was ≥4.00 (Rice, 2009 ). Considering these points, we adopted % AGR, median, SD, and CV to examine interexpert consensus.

Step 4: Examine intergroup consistency

In this expert-based study, the sample size was small. Any rater bias could have caused inconsistency among the subgroups of experts; therefore, we needed to examine the effect of rater bias on intergroup consistency. When the intergroup ratings showed substantially different distributions, the aggregated data were groundless. Dajani et al. ( 1979 ) remarked that interexpert consensus is meaningless if the consistency of responses in a study is not reached, as it means that any rater bias could distort the median, SD, or CV. Most studies have used one-way ANOVA to determine whether there is a significant difference between the expected and observed frequency in three or more categories. However, this method is based on large sample size and normal distribution. In the case of expert-based studies, the expert sample size is small, and the assessment distribution tends to be skewed. Thus, we used the nonparametric test instead of one-way ANOVA for consistency measurement (Potvin and Roff, 1993 ). We used the Kruskal‒Wallis test (K–W) to test the intergroup consistency among the three subgroups of experts. The purpose of the K–W test is to determine whether there are significant differences among three or more subgroups regarding the ratings of the domains (Huck, 2004 ). The judgment criteria in the K-W test depended on the level of significance, and we set the significance level at p  < 0.05 (Love and Irani, 2004 ), with no significant differences among groups set at p  > 0.05 (Loftus et al., 2000 ; Rice, 2009 ). We used SPSS to conduct the K–W test to assess intergroup consistency in this study.

Step 5: Examine interexpert reliability

Interexpert reliability, on the one hand, is usually defined as the proportion of systematic variance to the total variance in ratings (James et al., 1984 ). On the other hand, interexpert reliability estimation is not concerned with the exact or absolute value of ratings. Rather, it measures the relative ordering or ranking of rated objects. Thus, interexpert reliability estimation concerns the consistency of ratings (Tinsley and Weiss, 1975 ). If an expert-based study did not achieve interexpert reliability, we could not trust its analysis (Singletary, 1994 ). Thus, we examined interexpert reliability in this expert-based study. Many methods are available in the literature for measuring interexpert reliability, but there seems to be little consensus on a standard method. We used Kendall’s W to assess the reliability among the experts for each sample group (Goetz et al., 1994 ) because it was available for any sample size or ordinal number. If W was 1, all the experts were unanimous, and each had assigned the same order to the list of objects or concerns. As Spector et al. ( 2002 ) and Schilling ( 2002 ) suggested, reliabilities well above the recommended value of .70 indicate sufficient internal reliability. In this study, there was a strong consensus when W  > 0.7. W  > 0.5 represented a moderate consensus; and W  < 0.3 indicated weak interexpert agreement (Schmidt et al., 2001 ). To measure Kendall’s W , we used SPSS 23 to assess interexpert reliability.

Step 6: Examine the fuzzy analytic hierarchy process

After examining face validity, interexpert consensus, intergroup consistency, and interexpert reliability, we found that the aggregated items were relevant, authentic, and reliable in relation to the construct of interest. To provide policy-makers with a clear direction regarding which contributions are more or less important, we scored each attribute and subattribute using a multicriteria decision-making technique. Fuzzy AHP is a well-known decision-making tool for modeling unstructured problems. It enables decision-makers to model a complex issue in a hierarchical structure that indicates the relationships between the goal, criteria, and subcriteria on the basis of scores (Park and Yoon, 2011 ). The fuzzy AHP method tolerates vagueness and ambiguity (Mikhailov and Tsvetinov, 2004 ). In other words, fuzzy AHP can capture a human’s appraisal of ambiguity when considering complex, multicriteria decision-making problems (Erensal et al., 2006 ). In this study, we used Power Choice 2.5 software to run fuzzy AHP, determine weights, and develop the impact structure of rural tourism on sustainable rural development.

Face validity

To determine whether we had omitted variables, we asked all 18 experts to scrutinize our list of four attributes and 33 subattributes for omitted variables and determine whether the questionnaire contained any underlying CMB. We explained the meaning of omitted variables, the stimuli of CMB, and the two purposes of examining face validity to all the experts. In their feedback, the eighteen experts added one item as an omitted variable: business viability. The experts suggested no revisions to the questionnaire we had drafted. These results indicated that one omitted variable was revealed and that our prepared questionnaire was clear, straightforward, and understandable. The initially pooled 34 subattributes represented the construct of interest, and all questionnaires used for measurement were defendable in terms of CMB. The biasing effects of method variance did not exist, indicating that the threat of CMB was minor.

Interexpert consensus

In this step, we rejected any items irrelevant to the construct of interest. Consensus measurement played an essential role in aggregating the experts’ judgments. This study measured the AGR, median, SD, and CV. Two items, strategic alliance (AGR = 50%) and carbon neutrality (AGR = 56%) were rated < 70%, and we rejected them accordingly. These results are shown in Table 1 . The AGR, median, SD, and CV values were all greater than the cutoff points, thus indicating that the majority of experts in this study consistently recognized high values and reached a consensus for the rest of the 32 subattributes. Consequently, the four attributes and 32 subattributes remained and were initially identified as determinants for further analysis.

Intergroup consistency and interexpert reliability

In this study, with scores based on a 5-point Likert scale, we conducted the K–W test to assess intergroup differences for each subattribute. Based on the outcomes, the K–W test yielded significant results for all 32 subattributes; all three groups of experts reached consistency at p  > 0.05. This result indicated that no outlier or extreme value underlay the ratings, and therefore, intergroup consistency was reached. Finally, we measured interexpert reliability with Kendall’s W . The economic perspective was W  = 0.73, the sociocultural perspective was W  = 0.71, the environmental perspective was W  = 0.71, and the leisure and educational perspective was W  = 0.72. These four groups of W were all ≧ 0.7, indicating high reliability for the ranking order and convergence judged by all subgroup experts. These results are shown in Table 2 .

The hierarchical framework

The results of this study indicate that rural tourism contributions to rural community development comprise four attributes and thirty-two subattributes. The economic perspective encompasses nine subattributes and is weighted at w  = 0.387. In addition, rural tourism has long been considered a possible means of sociocultural development and regeneration of rural areas, particularly those affected by the decline in traditional rural

activities, agricultural festivals, and historical buildings. According to the desired benefits, the sociocultural perspective encompasses nine subattributes and is weighted at w  = 0.183. Moreover, as rural tourism can develop on farms and locally, its contribution to maintaining and enhancing environmental regeneration and protection is significant. Therefore, an environmental perspective can determine rural tourism’s impact on pursuing environmental objectives. Our results indicate that the environmental perspective encompasses seven subattributes and that its weight is w  = 0.237. Furthermore, the leisure and educational perspective indicates the attractiveness of rural tourism from visitors’ viewpoint and their perception of a destination’s value and contributions. These results show that this perspective encompasses seven subattributes and is weighted at w  = 0.193. This specific contribution model demonstrates a 3-level hierarchical structure, as shown in Fig. 2 . The scores for each criterion could indicate each attribute’s importance and explain the priority order of the groups. Briefly, the critical sequence of each measure in the model at Level 2 is as follows: economic perspective > environmental perspective > leisure and educational perspective > sociocultural perspective. Since scoring and ranking were provided by 18 experts from three different backgrounds and calculated using fuzzy AHP, our rural tourism contribution model is established. It can provide policy-makers with information on the long-term benefits and advantages following the completion of excellent community development in rural areas.

figure 2

The priority index of each attribute and sub-attribute.


In the era of sustainable rural development, it is vital to consider the role of rural tourism and how research in this area shapes access to knowledge on rural community development. This study provides four findings based on the increasing tendency of policy-makers to use such information to shape their policy-making priorities. It first shows that the demand for rural tourism has soared, particularly during COVID-19. Second, it lists four significant perspectives regarding the specific contributions of rural tourism to rural community development and delineates how these four perspectives affect rural tourism development. Our findings are consistent with those of prior studies. For example, geography has been particularly important in the rural or peripheral tourism literature (Carson, 2018 ). In terms of the local geographical context, two contributions could be made by rural tourism. The first stems from the environmental perspective. When a rural community develops rural tourism, environmental protection awareness is increased, and the responsible utilization of natural resources is promoted. This finding aligns with Lee and Jan ( 2019 ). The second stems from the leisure and educational perspective. The geographical context of a rural community, which provides tourists with geographical uniqueness, advances naturally calming, sensory-rich, and emotion-generating experiences for tourists. These results suggest that rural tourism will likely positively impact tourists’ experience. This finding is consistent with Kastenhoz et al. ( 2020 ). Third, although expert-based approaches have considerable benefits in developing and testing underlying phenomena, evidence derived from interexpert consensus, intergroup consistency, and interexpert reliability has been sparse. This study provides such evidence. Fourth, this research shows that rural tourism makes four main contributions, economic, sociocultural, environmental, leisure, and educational, to rural community development. Our results show four key indicators at Level 2. The economic perspective is strongly regarded as the most important indicator, followed by the environmental perspective, leisure and educational perspective, and sociocultural perspective, which is weighted as the least important. The secondary determinants of contributions have 32 subindicators at Level 3: each was identified and assigned a different weight. These results imply that the attributes or subattributes with high weights have more essential roles in understanding the contributions of rural tourism to rural community development. Policy-makers can use these 32 subindicators to formulate rural tourism development policies or strategies.

This study offers the following five practical implications for policymakers and rural communities:

First, we argue that developing rural tourism within a rural community is an excellent strategy for revitalization and countering the effects of urbanization, depopulation, deforestation, and unemployment.

Second, our analytical results indicate that rural tourism’s postdevelopment contribution is significant from the economic, sociocultural, environmental, leisure, and educational perspectives, which is consistent with Lee and Jan ( 2019 ).

Third, there is an excellent opportunity to build or invest more in rural tourism during COVID-19, not only because of the functions of rural tourism but also because of its timing. Many prior studies have echoed this recommendation. For example, Yang et al. ( 2021 ) defined rural tourism as the leading industry in rural areas, offering an output value ten times higher than that of agriculture in China. In addition, rural tourism has become more attractive to urban tourists amid COVID-19. Vaishar and Šťastná ( 2022 ) suggested that the COVID-19 pandemic created a strong demand for rural tourism, which can mitigate threats to public mental health, such as anxiety, depression, loneliness, isolation, and insomnia. Marques et al. ( 2022 ) showed that tourists’ preference for tourism in rural areas increased substantially during COVID-19.

Fourth, the contributions of this study to policy development are substantial. The more focused rural tourism in rural areas is, the more effective revitalization becomes. This finding highlights the importance of such features in developing rural tourism to enhance rural community development from multiple perspectives. This finding echoes Zawadka et al. ( 2022 ); i.e., policy-makers should develop rural tourism to provide tourists with a safe and relaxed environment and should not ignore the value of this model for rural tourism.

Fifth, our developed model could drive emerging policy issues from a supporting perspective and provide policy-makers with a more comprehensive overview of the development of the rural tourism sector, thus enabling them to create better policies and programs as needed. For example, amid COVID-19, rural tourism created a safe environment for tourists, mainly by reducing their fears of contamination (Dennis et al., 2021 ). This novel contribution that rural tourism destinations can provide to residents and visitors from other places should be considered and built into any rural community development policy.

This study also has the following four methodological implications for researchers:

First, it addresses methodological limitations that still impede tourism sustainability model development. Specifically, we suggest a six-stage procedure as the guideline; it is imperative that rural tourism researchers or model developers follow this procedure. If they do not, their findings tend to be flawed.

Second, to ensure that collected data are without extraneous interference or differences via subgroups of experts, the assessment of intergroup consistency with the K–W test instead of one-way ANOVA is proposed, especially in small samples and distribution-free studies.

Third, providing interexpert reliability evidence within expert-based research is critical; we used Kendall’s W to assess the reliability among experts for each sample group because it applies to any sample size and ordinal number.

Finally, we recommend using fuzzy AHP to establish a model with appropriate indicators for decision-making or selection. This study offers novel methodological insights by estimating a theoretically grounded and empirically validated rural tourism contribution model.

There are two limitations to this study. First, we examine all subattributes by interexpert consensus to delete construct-irrelevant variances that might receive criticism for their lack of statistical rigor. Future studies can use other rigorous methods, such as AD M( j ) or rWG ( j ) , interexpert agreement indices to assess and eliminate construct-irrelevant variances. Second, we recommend maximizing rural tourism contributions to rural community development by using the general population as a sample to identify any differences. More specifically, we recommend using Cronbach’s alpha, confirmatory factor analysis (CFA), and structural equation modeling (SEM) to test the overall reliability and validity of the data and results. It is also necessary to provide results for goodness-of-fit measures—e.g., the goodness-of-fit index (GFI), adjusted goodness-of-fit index (AGFI), comparative fit index (CFI), normed fit index (NFI), Tucker–Lewis Index (TLI), standardized root mean square residual (SRMR), or root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA).

Numerous empirical studies have illustrated how rural tourism can positively and negatively affect the contexts in rural areas where it is present. This study reveals the positive contributions of rural tourism to rural community development. The findings show that using rural tourism as a revitalization strategy is beneficial to nonurban communities in terms of their economic, sociocultural, environmental, and leisure and educational development. The contribution from the economic perspective is particularly important. These findings suggest that national, regional, and local governments or community developers should make tourism a strategic pillar in their policies for rural development and implement tourism-related development projects to gain 32 benefits, as indicated in Fig. 2 . More importantly, rural tourism was advocated and proved effective for tourists and residents to reduce anxiety, depression, or insomnia during the COVID-19 pandemic. With this emerging contribution, rural tourism is becoming more critical to tourists from urban areas and residents involved in rural community development. With this model, policy-makers should not hesitate to develop or invest more in rural communities to create additional tourism-based activities and facilities. As they could simultaneously advance rural community development and public mental health, policy-makers should include these activities among their regional resilience considerations and treat them as enablers of sustainable rural development. We conclude that amid COVID-19, developing rural tourism is an excellent strategy for promoting rural community development and an excellent alternative that could counteract the negative impacts of urbanization and provide stakeholders with more positive interests. The proposed rural tourism contribution model also suggests an unfolding research plan.

Data availability

The datasets generated and/or analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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Tourism Teacher

Why Rural Tourism Is The Next Big Thing

Disclaimer: Some posts on Tourism Teacher may contain affiliate links. If you appreciate this content, you can show your support by making a purchase through these links or by buying me a coffee . Thank you for your support!

Rural tourism is an important part of the tourism industry around the world. From walks in the Brecon Beacons , to climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to eco tourism in The Gambia , many destinations rely on their rural tourism provision to bring in much needed revenue for the local economy.

But what does rural tourism actually mean? What is it all about? In this article I will explain what is meant by the term rural tourism, providing a range of academic and industry-based definitions. I will then discuss the importance of rural tourism, activities commonly found in rural tourism destinations and destinations offering rural tourism. I will also assess the positive and negative impacts of rural tourism.

What is rural tourism?

Rural tourism definitions, national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty (aonbs), sites of special scientific interest, sacs, spas and ramsar sites, national and local nature reserves, heritage coasts and european geoparks, why is rural tourism important, natural england, visitbritain, the national trust, forestry commission, national park authorities, employment generation, benefits to wider economy through taxes, boosts local businesses, local community can use newly developed infrastructure and services, cultural exchange, revitalisation of traditions, customs and crafts, environmental protection and conservation, pressure on public services , increased price of land and real estate, congestion and overcrowding , inappropriate or too much development, restricting access, training schemes for local population, community-based rural tourism, promoting traditional artefacts, improving public transport systems, traffic management schemes, conservation projects, repairing the paths, stone pitching, rural tourism activities, rural tourism in greece, rural tourism in canada, rural tourism in sri lanka, rural tourism in australia, rural tourism: conclusion, further reading.

Rural tourism is tourism which takes place in non-urbanised areas. These areas typically include (but are not limited to) national parks, forests , countryside areas and mountain areas.

Rural tourism is closely aligned with the concept of sustainable tourism , given that it is inherently linked to green spaces and commonly environmentally-friendly forms of tourism, such as hiking or camping.

Rural tourism is an umbrella term. The rural tourism industry includes a number of tourism types, such as golfing tourism, glamping or WOOFING .

Rural tourism is distinguished from urban tourism in that it typically requires the use of natural resources.

Rural tourism

As with many types of tourism , there is no universally accepted definition of rural tourism. In fact, the term is actually quite ambiguous.

When defining the term rural tourism it is important first and foremost to understand what is and what isn’t ‘rural’.

The OECD defines a rural area as, ‘at the local level, a population density of 150 persons per square kilometre. 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 urbanised regions (15%).

The Council of Europe further state that a ‘rural area’ is an area of inland or coastal countryside, including small towns and villages, where the main part of the area is used for:

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

Now that we know a little bit more about the ‘rural’ part, it is also important to understand what is meant by the term ‘tourism’. There are many definitions of tourism , but it is generally recognised that a tourist is a person who travels away from their home residence for at least 24 hours for leisure or business purposes.

It appears, therefore, that a person who travels to an area that is sparsely populated for more than 24 hours for leisure or business purposes is likely to qualify as a ‘rural tourist’.

The World Tourism Organisation , provide a little more clarity. They state that rural tourism is ‘a type of tourism activity in which the visitor’s experience is related to a wide range of products generally linked to nature-based activities, agriculture, rural lifestyle / culture , angling and sightseeing’.

Dernoi states that rural tourism occurs when there are activities in a ‘non-urban territory where human (land-related economic) activity is going on, primarily agriculture’.

The OECD prescribes that 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.

Gökhan Ayazlar & Reyhan A. Ayazlar (2015) have collated a number of academic definitions of rural tourism. You can see a summary of this below.

Rural tourism

Types of rural tourism areas

There are many different types of rural areas that are popular tourism destinations. These may be named slightly differently around the world. Here are some examples from the UK:

There are 15 National Parks in the UK which are protected areas because of their beautiful countryside, wildlife and cultural heritage.

A national park is a protected area. It is a location which has a clear boundary. It has people and laws that make sure that nature and wildlife are protected and that people can continue to benefit from nature without destroying it.

People live and work in the National Parks and the farms, villages and towns are protected along with the landscape and wildlife.

National Parks welcome visitors and provide opportunities for everyone to experience, enjoy and learn about their special qualities.

National Parks were first mentioned in 1931 in a government inquiry, however no action was taken. Public discontent led to a mass trespass on Kinder Scout (in the now known Peak District), five men were arrested. This led the Council for the protection for Rural England making and releasing a film in the cinemas calling for public help.

This public pressure culminates in the 1945 white paper on National Parks, leading to the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. In 1951 the Peak District became the first National Park.

An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is exactly what it says it is: a precious landscape whose distinctive character and natural beauty are so outstanding that it is in the nation’s interest to safeguard them.

There are 38 AONBs in England and Wales. Created by the legislation of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act of 1949, AONBs represent 18% of the Finest Countryside in England and Wales. There are also 8 AONBs in Northern Ireland . Gower was the first AONB established in 1956.

Their care has been entrusted to the local authorities, organisations, community groups and the individuals who live and work within them or who value them.

Each AONB has been designated for special attention by reason of their high qualities. These include their flora, fauna, historical and cultural associations as well as scenic views.

AONB landscapes range from rugged coastline to water meadows to gentle downland and upland moors.

Sites of Special Scientific Interests are the country’s very best wildlife and geological sites.

SSSIs include some of the most spectacular and beautiful habitats; wetlands teeming with wading birds, winding chalk rivers, flower-rich meadows, windswept shingle beaches and remote upland peat bogs.

There are over 4,100 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) in England, covering around 8% of the country’s land area. More than 70% of these sites (by area) are internationally important for their wildlife and designated as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), Special Protection Areas (SPAs) or Ramsar sites.

Special Areas of Conservation are areas which have been given special protection under the European Union’s Habitats Directive.

They provide increased protection to a variety of wild animals, plants and habitats and are a vital part of global efforts to conserve the world’s biodiversity.

Special Protection Areas are areas which have been identified as being of international importance for the breeding, feeding, wintering or the migration of rare and vulnerable species of birds found within European Union countries.

Ramsar sites are wetlands of international importance, designated under the Ramsar Convention.

Wetlands are defined as areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six metres.

Read also- – Types of tourism: A glossary – Domestic tourism explained – What is the ‘shut-in economy’? Understanding the basics – Cultural tourism: Everything you need to know – Insta tourism: An explanation – What is globalisation? – Business tourism: What, why and where

Local Nature Reserves are for both people and wildlife. They offer people special opportunities to study or learn about nature or simply to enjoy it.

There are now more than 1400 LNRs in England. They range from windswept coastal headlands, ancient woodlands and flower-rich meadows to former inner city railways, abandoned landfill sites and industrial areas now re-colonised by wildlife. In total they cover about 35,000 ha.

This is an impressive natural resource which makes an important contribution to England’s biodiversity.

Heritage Coasts represent stretches of our most beautiful, undeveloped coastline , which are managed to conserve their natural beauty and, where appropriate, to improve accessibility for visitors.

Thirty-three per cent (1,057km) of scenic English coastline is conserved as Heritage Coasts. The first Heritage Coast to be defined was the famous white chalk cliffs of Beachy Head in Sussex and the latest is the Durham Coast. Now much of our coastline, such as the sheer cliffs of Flamborough Head and Bempton, with their huge seabird colonies, is protected as part of our coastal heritage.

European Geoparks are areas in Europe with an outstanding geological heritage. There are two in England, the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the English Riviera in Devon.

What is rural tourism?

Tourism makes up just one (important) part of the rural economy.

Rural tourism provides valuable commercial and employment opportunities for communities that are confronted with the growing challenge of offering viable livelihoods for their local populations.

Without these opportunities, people may be forced to relocate to more populous areas, often resulting in separated families and economic leakage in the local community.

Let me give you an example- In northern Thailand , many tourists choose to go on hiking tours, staying in homestays and spending their money in the rural communities. This provides local people with work opportunities that they would not otherwise be exposed to. Many women leave their home villages in Thailand to work in the sex tourism industry , where they can earn a far higher wage to support their families. But with the growth of rural tourism, many women have been able to avoid moving to the red light districts of Bangkok and Pattaya and have instead been able to make an income in the rural areas in which they live.

Moreover, rural tourism can help to disperse tourism in highly populated countries. This directs tourists away from some of the more well-known, busy areas and provides work opportunities and economic activity in alternative areas. It also helps to combat the challenge od limited carrying capacities in some destinations and the negative environmental impacts of tourism .

Rural tourism

The rural tourism industry interlinks with a range of activity types, thus bringing economic benefit to a variety of areas. This is demonstrated in the figure below.

Rural tourism

The roles and responsibilities of organisations involved in the management of rural tourism

Rural areas need to be managed in order to preserve its natural beauty, without limiting activities of economic benefit.

There are many organisations in which have an interest in rural areas and how they are managed and used. These include:

  • National Trust
  • National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (NAAONB)
  • English Heritage
  • Countryside Alliance
  • Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)
  • Ramblers’ Association

The organisations involved in managing rural tourism will do things such as;

  • Promote rural pursuits
  • Give information
  • Offer advice
  • Provide revenue channels
  • Legal enforcement
  • Protect the environment
  • Protect wildlife
  • Educate people

Here is some more information about some of the major organisations that are involved with rural tourism:

Natural England is an Executive Non-departmental Public Body.

This means that although they are an independent organisation they have to report their activities and findings back to the Government (Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, DEFRA).

Their purpose is to protect and improve England’s natural environment and encourage people to enjoy and get involved in their surroundings.

They cover the whole of the England and work with people such as farmers, town and country planners, researchers and scientists, and the general public on a range of schemes and initiatives.

Their aim is to create a better natural environment that covers all of our urban, country and coastal landscapes, along with all of the animals, plants and other organisms that live with us.

Natural England is the government’s advisor on the natural environment. They provide practical advice, grounded in science, on how best to safeguard England’s natural areas for the benefit of everyone.

Their work is to ensure sustainable usage of the land and sea so that people and nature can thrive. Yet continuing to adapt and survive for future generations to enjoy.

Their responsibilities include:

  • Managing England’s green farming schemes, paying nearly £400million/year to maintain two-third’s of agricultural land under agri-environment agreements
  • Increasing opportunities for everyone to enjoy the wonders of the natural world
  • Reducing the decline of biodiversity and licensing of protected species across England
  • Designating National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty
  • Managing most National Nature Reserves and notifying Sites of Special Scientific Interest
  • One of Natural England’s initiatives includes Outdoors for All.
  • The Outdoors for All programme began in 2008 with an action plan called Outdoors for All?
  • This plan was in response to the Diversity Review which showed that some people were less likely to access the natural environment for recreation and other purposes.
  • The under-represented groups were found to be disabled people, black and minority ethnic people, people who live in inner city areas and young people.
  • In response Natural England are supporting other organisations in projects to get more of these under-represented groups to come to natural areas

VisitBritain is Britain’s national tourism agency, responsible for marketing Britain worldwide and developing Britain’s visitor economy.

Their mission is to build the value of tourism to Britain.

It is a non-departmental public body, funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, they work in partnership with thousands of organisations in the UK and overseas – the Government, the industry and other tourism bodies – to ensure that Britain is marketed in an inspirational and effective way around the world.

Their current priority is to deliver a four-year match funded global marketing programme which takes advantage of the unique opportunity of the Royal Wedding, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the 2012 Games to showcase Britain and attract new visitors from the tourism growth markets of Asia and Latin America and to reinvigorate our appeal in core markets such as the USA, France and Germany. This campaign aims to attract four million extra visitors to Britain, who will spend an additional £2 billion.

In 2010, Deloitte published a report on their contribution to the visitor economy. As part of the findings, the report demonstrates that their activity contributes £1.1 billion to the economy and delivers £150 million directly to the Treasury each year in tax take. They also create substantial efficiency savings – £159 million last year – on the public purse.

The National Trust was founded in 1895 by three Victorian philanthropists – Miss Octavia Hill, Sir Robert Hunter and Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley.

Concerned about the impact of uncontrolled development and industrialisation, they set up the Trust to act as a guardian for the nation in the acquisition and protection of threatened coastline, countryside and buildings.

They work to preserve and protect the buildings, countryside and coastline of England, Wales and Northern Ireland , in a range of ways, through practical conservation, learning and discovery, and encouraging everyone to visit and enjoy their national heritage.

They also educate people about the importance of the environment and of preserving heritage for future generations, they contribute to important debates over the future of the economy, the development of people’s skills and sense of community, and the quality of the local environment in both town and country.

The National Trust conducted a survey in which they found that ‘Wildlife is alien to a generation of indoor children’. They found that one in three cannot identify a magpie, one of the UK’s most common and most distinctive birds, while half couldn’t tell the difference between a bee and a wasp.

They also found that just 53% could correctly identify an oak leaf – the national tree and a powerful symbol of England, 29% failed to spot a magpie, despite the numbers soaring three-fold over the past 30 years, only 47% of children correctly identified a barn owl, one in three failed to recognise a Red Admiral; Britain’s best-known butterfly.

When asked to identify fictional creatures, however, children’s abilities suddenly soared with nine out of ten able to correctly name Doctor Who’s enemies, the Daleks, a similar number were able to identify Star Wars’ Jedi Grand Master, Yoda.

The figures are clearly a cause for concern for parents. Asked about their own knowledge of nature, 67% of parents thought they knew more about wildlife when they were youngsters than their children do now, 65% felt that this was partly due to the fact that they spent too little time with their children as a family outdoors.

The survey, carried out across both urban and rural areas across the UK, is part of a major campaign in London to encourage families to spend more time together outdoors.

The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible for the protection and expansion of Britain’s forests and woodlands.

Their mission is to protect and expand Britain’s forests and woodlands and increase their value to society and the environment.

They take the lead, on behalf of all three administrations, in the development and promotion of sustainable forest management. They deliver the distinct forestry policies of England, Scotland and Wales through specific objectives drawn from the country forestry strategies so our mission and values may be different in each.

As you know there are 15 members of the National Parks family in the UK and each one is looked after by its own National Park Authority. They all work together as the Association of National Park Authorities (ANPA).

The UK’s 15 National Parks are part of a global family of over 113,000 protected areas, covering 149 million square kilometres or 6% of the Earth’s surface. We are linked to Europe through the EUROPARC Federation – a network of European protected areas with 360 member organisations in 37 countries.

Each National Park is administered by its own National Park Authority. They are independent bodies funded by central government to:

  • conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage; and
  • promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of National Parks by the public.
  • If there’s a conflict between these two purposes, conservation takes priority. In carrying out these aims, National Park Authorities are also required to seek to foster the economic and social well-being of local communities within the National Park.
  • The Broads Authority has a third purpose, protecting the interests of navigation, and under the Broads Act 1988 all three purposes have equal priority.
  • The Scottish National Parks’ objectives are to also promote the sustainable use of natural resources, the sustainable economic and social development of local communities and more of a focus on recreation.

Each National Park Authority has a number of unpaid appointed members, selected by the Secretary of State, local councils and parish councils. The role of members is to provide leadership, scrutiny and direction for the National Park Authority.

There are also a number of paid staff who carry out the work necessary to run the National Park.

UK ANPA brings together the 15 National Park Authorities in the UK to raise the profile of the National Parks and to promote joint working. Country associations for the English and Welsh National Parks represent the National Park Authorities to English and Welsh governments.

Positive impacts of rural tourism

Rural tourism has many positive economic, social and environmental impacts if it is managed well and adheres to sustainable tourism principles. I have outlined some of the most commonly noted benefits of rural tourism below:

Employment generation is a common positive economic impact impact of tourism .

Rural tourism can create many jobs in areas where they may otherwise not be many employment opportunities.

These jobs may be directly related to the rural tourism industry, for example hotel workers or taxi drivers.

They may also be indirected related to the rural tourism industry, such as builders (who build the hotels) or staff employed to maintain and keep the area clean.

If more people are employed, there is more opportunity for wider economics benefits. This is because employees will likely pay taxes on their income.

Each destination has its own methods of taxation. But one thing that we can be fairly certain about, is that there will be some money made through taxes on tourism products and services.

The money raised through taxes can then be reinvested into other areas, such as healthcare or education. Tourism therefore has the potential to provide a far-reaching positive economic impact.

Rural tourism enables local people to set up and operate businesses. Rural areas often have less of the known chains and brands (think Costa Coffee, Hilton Hotel etc) and more independent organisations.

Businesses that are owned and managed locally are great because it enables much of the income raised from tourism to stay local and prevents economic leakage in tourism .

Rural tourism will often require the development of new infrastructure and facilities.

This is particular prevalent when it comes to transport networks. Inherently, rural areas are not well connected by public transport. Roads are often narrow and windy, meaning that traffic build up is common, particularly during peak times.

Rural tourism often results in the construction of new transport networks and infrastructure, among other public facilities and services. This is beneficial not only to the tourists who travel here, but also to the local community.

Rural tourism encourages cultural tourism and cultural exchange.

Many people from a range of destinations will travel to rural areas for tourism. This provides opportunities for locals and tourists to get to know each other and to learn more about each other’s cultures.

There are many positive social impacts of tourism . One impact is that rural areas are encouraged to share their traditions and customs with the people who are coming to visit the area.

This encourages the revitalisation and preservation of traditions, customs and crafts.

Because rural tourism usually relies on the environment that is being visited, there are often schemes put in place to protect and conserve areas.

This includes giving an area natural park status or declaring it an area of outstanding natural beauty, for example.

It also includes implementing management processes, such as reducing visitor numbers or condoning off particular areas.

Negative impacts of rural tourism

Whilst rural tourism does have many advantages, there are also disadvantages that must be taken into account. Here are some of the most common examples:

Tourism is often seasonal and comes in peaks and troughs. In the UK, for example, countryside areas are busier on weekends than on weekdays and there are more tourists during the school holidays than there are during term time.

This can place lots of pressure on public services. Hospitals may be overwhelmed during the summer months, when hotel occupancy rates are at their highest. Roads may be gridlocked on bank holiday weekends as city-livers flee to the countryside for some fresh air.

The presence of tourism can result in increases in land and housing prices. This can have a negative effect on the local population.

Some people may feel that they need to relocate because they can no longer afford to live in the area, known as gentrification.

Other people may have a lower quality of life (i.e. have a smaller home, less disposable income) than they would have had if there was no tourism.

As I mentioned before, rural tourism can be subject to overcrowding and congestion. This is particularly prevalent during peak times such as Christmas, the summer holidays and weekends.

Another concern of rural tourism is that there may be too much development in an area. This can impact the appeal of a destination to both tourists and locals.

Some development may not be in keeping with the traditions of the area. If a new theme park is built (because they are often in rural areas), for example, this would likely completely change the area. It would bring with it a different type of tourist and the associated developments (hotels, food outlets etc).

Rural tourism management techniques

In order to maximise the positive impacts of rural tourism and minimise the negative impacts, it is imperative that appropriate management techniques are adopted. Below I have outlined that practices that are seen throughout the world:

Unfortunately, many rural tourism areas are not accessible to all. Enabling wide-scale access is an important part of ensuring that tourism is fair and sustainable.

The equality Act 2010 states that ‘Tourism providers should treat everyone accessing their goods, facilities or services fairly, regardless of their age, gender, race, sexual orientation, disability, gender reassignment, religion or belief, and guard against making assumptions about the characteristics of individuals.’

Here are some great examples of accessibility in rural tourism: – New Forest Access for All – Peak District access for All – Parsley Hay cycle centre

As I mentioned earlier, a lack of transport links to gain access to the destination is a common problem in the rural tourism industry. Organisations can work with local and regional governments to improve local infrastructure. They can also organise their own transport options, such as buses or tours.

In some cases, restrictions to access are necessary in order to ensure that areas are preserved. This is the case, for example, at Stone Henge, where the area is roped-off to prevent tourists from touching the stones.

Similarly, many areas will ask tourists to stick to designated paths or walkways, to prevent damage to the natural environment.

In order to encourage sustainable tourism development , many organisations will invest in training programmes and schemes to up-skill members of the local community.

This is common amongst hotels, facilities and attractions should employ people from the local community.

Training helps to ensure that organisations have more satisfied staff, who are more likely to stay in the position. This keeps costs and turnover of staff down for the company. Happy staff are also likely to work harder and be more productive in their job, which in turn helps the organisation and the overall economy to yield greater economic outcomes.

Example: LandSkills East offer a Bursary to suitably qualified and experienced applicants to help meet the cost of higher level training in management, business and leadership skills. Applicants should be interested in developing their skills in order to steer the future of the land based and rural sector in the East of England and the rest of the UK. Bursary funding covers 50% of the cost of the training activity. This can be from £500 to a maximum of £3000 pounds. This could be to attend conferences, workshops, work placements, research, formal training or post-graduate level qualifications in areas related to the industry. The following industries are eligible for bursary funding: -Agriculture and Livestock -Arable and non Food Crops -Food and Production Horticulture -Viticulture -Environmental Conservation -Food Diversification and Supply Chain -Rural Crafts e.g. timber framing, thatching -Land-based Research and Development

Community-based tourism is often found in rural areas. This is because there is often a close-knit community.

Community tourism fosters the growth of locally owned and managed businesses. It also encourages businesses that are directly involved in the tourism industry (i.e. a hotel) to work with other local businesses (i.e. a local farmer).

Partnerships between local business helps to maximise the economic advantages of rural tourism and minimise economic leakage in tourism .

Areas will have traditional artefacts that demonstrate their history, culture and traditions. These could be from, for example, the Celtic, Romans & religious era’s.

Many of these will be protected or put into museums i.e. The Chiltern Open Air Museum , based in the AONB – The Chilterns.

Places that facilitate the promotion of traditional artefacts such as this are often given charitable status. This means that they can obtain money from sponsorship, funding and membership.

As I have mentioned several times throughout this article, public transport infrastructure is often one of the downsides of rural tourism. Therefore, rural tourism destinations can try to implement various strategies and developments in attempt to improve this.

One such technique is the Green Travel Plan. This is an effective Travel Plan helps to reduce pressure on the local infrastructure, contributes to keeping local pollution to a minimum and enables the widest range of people to have good access to work and services.

Areas can also try to encourage sustainable travel.

Sustainable travel is any form of transport that keeps damage to our environment to a minimum and normally has the added advantage of being a healthier alternative for the user.

Methods of sustainable transport include: walking, cycling, public transport and car sharing, or using vehicles that minimise carbon emissions and other pollutants, such as electric and hybrid cars, and cars which run on cleaner fuels such as LPG.

Some destinations will implement traffic management schemes in order to make their tourism sector more sustainable.

This could be in the form of encouraging destinations to have visitor travel plans in place and to work with businesses and accommodation providers to promote things to enjoy that require reduced travel.

Destinations and public transport operators may aim to develop ‘hubs’ from which there is a concentration of car free options with car parking (e.g. walks, cycle hire, bus and rail services). This would integrate with public transport, accommodation and other visitor experiences.

Others may identify and share best practice in rural public transport that meets the needs of visitors and communities e.g. Smart ticketing; electric bikes; car clubs.

A completely car free rural area and low carbon initiatives will be difficult to implement. This means accepting that some car use is necessary for rural tourism but encouraging more initiatives that increase dwell times at destinations, reduce mileage and length of car journey, such as walks and itineraries that are integrated with public transport and visitor experiences.

It is also important to encourage sustainable transport options when visitors arrive at their destination, for example, encouraging accommodation to link to cycle hire firms, cycle racks, and cycle friendly venues for visitors to bring their own bikes.

There are various sites and properties that are protected against demolition and further building but must be preserved and repaired where necessary.

Footpaths are included in the conservation projects and many destinations have developed footpath networks in attempt to protect the larger area from tramping, littering etc.

Example- Today the Lake District attracts over 12 million visitors per year. This large number of visitors puts the environment under great pressure. It has been estimated that over 10 million people use the National Park’s paths annually. Many Lake District paths have become huge open scars, visible from miles away. Eroded paths are not only unsightly, but unpleasant to walk on and can lead to habitat loss as well as damage to the heritage, archaeological and natural history qualities of the area.

Repairing eroded paths is not the statutory duty of the Highway Authority, or anyone else, as long as they are still ‘open and fit for use’. The National Trust, the LDNPA and English Nature have worked together since the late 1970s to manage the problem.

In 1993 they formed the Lake District Upland Access Management Group (AMG). Their aim was to complete a detailed survey of eroded paths in theLake District. The initial surveys, which focused in particular on the popular central fells, identified 145 paths which were in need of repair.

By 1999, the whole of the National Park had been surveyed and 180 paths had been identified as being in need of repair. The huge scale of the problem highlighted the need for a long term management solution.

This led to the formation of the Upland Path Landscape Restoration Project (UPLRP) a 10 year project (2002 to 2011) which sets out to repair the majority of landscape scars caused by the erosion of fells paths in the Lake District.

This technique involves digging stone into the ground to form good solid footfalls. This ancient technique is used extensively in the central fells using stone which is naturally occurring.

There are many different rural tourism activities that people can take part in and many reasons that a person may be motivated to be a rural tourist.

rural tourism.ro

Motivational reasons may include:

Many people choose to undertake rural tourism because they enjoy traditional pursuits. These may include:

There are also a number of modern pursuits that are packaged and sold as part of a rural tourism holiday. These include:

  • Mountain biking
  • Quad biking
  • Water sports
  • Team-building

There are also many special interest holidays that take place in rural areas, such as:

  • Heritage tours/activities
  • Wildlife spotting/visiting/petting
  • Sightseeing
  • Canal cruising
  • Photography
  • Horser riding
  • Pony trekking
  • Winter sports

Lastly, rural tourism can be the perfect ground for educational opportunities, which may include:

  • Geography field trips
  • Team building

Rural tourism destinations

In recent years I have taken part in rural tourism activities in a number of countries around the world . Here are some of my favourites:

One of my favourite rural travel destinations is Meteora in Greece.

Meteora is an area of Greece that features extraordinary rock formations. The area is abundant with slender stone pinnacles. Many of these pinnacles house ancient Byzantine monasteries on top.

The area is simply magical! And I’m not the only one who thinks so… this part of Greece has been the setting for a number of films, including one of my favourites- Avatar.

Canada offers the perfect rural tourism holidays!

We did a road trip through the Rockies a couple of years back and absolutely LOVED it! There is so much to do and the scenery is just spectacular.

You can read all about our trip to Canada with a baby here.

Rural tourism is very popular in Sri Lanka.

The main area of appeal are the tea plantations. These areas are rich with history and offer a number of tours where tourists can learn about the history, culture and physical production of tea.

This made for a great addition to our Sri Lanka with a baby itinerary.

Rural tourism in Australia is very popular.

Some people choose to visit the mountain or countryside areas for recreation. Others commit to volunteer tourism projects or undertake working holidays. WWOOFING is also very popular in Australia.

Many people choose to visit the ‘outback’, which offers many rural tourism opportunities. Australia is a popular destination for road trips and it is common for tourists to drive around the country using camper vans or other road transport.

It is evident that rural tourism deserves a place in the tourism industry!

Rural tourism is popular the world over and has the potential to have significant economic impacts in rural areas. As I have explained, careful management is important in order to ensure that the positive impacts are maximised and the negative impacts are minimised- there are a number of different stakeholders that play a role in this.

The rural tourism industry has significant value to the tourism industries and economies of countries around the world. If you would like to learn more about rural tourism, I have suggested some texts below.

  • Rural Tourism -This book describes, analyses, celebrates and interrogates the rise of rural tourism in the developed world over the last thirty years, while explaining its need to enter a new, second generation of development if it is to remain sustainable in all senses of that word.
  • Rural Tourism and Enterprise: Management, Marketing and Sustainability – This textbook examines key issues affecting rural enterprise and tourism.
  • Rural Tourism: An International Perspective – This edited collection questions the contribution tourism can and does make to rural regions.
  • Rural Tourism: An Introduction – This text provides a comprehensive, stimulating and up-to-date analysis of the key issues involved in the planning and management of rural tourism.
  • Rural Tourism and Recreation: Principles to Practice – This book reviews both the theory and practice of rural tourism and recreation.
  • Rural Tourism and Sustainable Business – This book provides the latest conceptual thinking on, and case study exemplification of, rural tourism and sustainable business development from Europe, North America, Australasia, the Middle East and Japan.
  • Rural Tourism Development: Localism and Cultural Change – This book links changes at the local, rural community level to broader, more structural considerations of globalization and allows for a deeper, more theoretically sophisticated consideration of the various forces and features of rural tourism development. 

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Rural tourism and the sustainable development goals. a study of the variables that most influence the behavior of the tourist.

\nJos María Lpez-Sanz

  • 1 Economics and Business Management Department, Faculty of Economics, Business and Tourism, Universidad de Alcalá, Alcalá de Henares, Spain
  • 2 Department of Business Administration, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, Universidad de León, León, Spain

Tourism is an activity that contributes directly and indirectly to the development of rural areas. But this development needs to be sustainable. To do this, appropriate policies that positively influence these areas from an economic, social and cultural point of view must be implemented. All this in accordance with the Sustainable Development Goals. This study will analyze the contribution of rural tourism to develop and implement policies to promote sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products. The variables that most influence the tourist behavior, motivation, the destination image, and the satisfaction obtained by the tourist will be analyzed. After an exhaustive review of the literature, an empirical investigation was carried out with 1,658 valid surveys among rural tourists in Soria, a Spanish province with one of the highest levels of depopulation. A structural equation model was drawn up to discover the relationships between the variables. The results demonstrated the importance of the motivation in the formation of the destination image, as well as satisfaction with the trip. In the same way, we will verify which component of the image of the destination (affective or cognitive) has the most influence on their formation, and how the image of the destination, like motivation, influences tourist satisfaction. The proposed model could be used in many studies that analyze the different variables that influence consumer behavior since its reliability and predictive capacity have been proven. The results of the study can also be used by the authorities to design or modify the most appropriate strategies that influence rural tourism, specially promoting the destination image as a variable that positively influences tourist satisfaction.


This study is an original investigation of the rural tourists' behavior, attending to the most important variables that help to understand this behavior. It is analyzed how policies focused on rural tourism should be in line with Sustainable Development Goals defined by the UN in 2017, especially with objective 8 “Decent Work and Economic Growth,” to promote sustainable tourism, which creates jobs and promotes culture and local products, as can be seen in the goal 8.9 of that goal number 8.

Rural tourism has gained broad acceptance in Spain. The wide range of accommodation and activities included in the definition of “Rural Tourism” makes it a very attractive option to consumers. In Spain, it is now an important alternative to sun and beach tourism, which has traditionally been a very popular choice of vacationers.

As a consequence, for depopulated and depressed areas in Spain, this kind of tourism has become an additional economic activity, so they no longer depend exclusively on primary activities such as agriculture and livestock. There are extensive opportunities for agrotourism, combining tourism with agriculture-related activities, which indicate the potential synergies between them. The local authorities managing rural tourism must therefore implement policies to promote its development. For Polo (2010) , the development of the rural tourist activity is very suitable for improving the development of the rural areas, likewise Marzo-Navarro (2017) stated that rural tourism promotes the development and economic growth of the destination areas, for which it is a priority to achieve the objectives of economic, sociocultural, and environmental sustainability. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) (2021) has recognized that “tourism is one of the driving forces of global economic growth and is currently responsible for the creation of 1 in 11 jobs. By giving access to decent work opportunities in the tourism sector, society, in particular, young people and women, can benefit from improved skills and professional development. The sector's contribution to job creation is recognized in target 8.9: by 2030, devise and implement policies to promote sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products.” To this end, it is thus very important to analyze a range of variables and components that may influence rural tourism behavior.

Among the most influential variables, satisfaction is a key factor that indicates what the trip has meant to the tourist. Many studies have demonstrated the importance of perceived value and satisfaction in tourist behavior ( Barsky and Labagh, 1992 ; Tam, 2000 ; Choi and Chu, 2001 ; Tian-Cole and Cromption, 2003 ; Petrick, 2004 ; Yoon and Uysal, 2005 ; Hutchinson et al., 2009 ; Kim et al., 2009 ; Jin et al., 2013 ; Asgarnezhad et al., 2018 ; Chin et al., 2019 ; Penelas-Leguía et al., 2019 ; Castro et al., 2020 ). Several studies considered “word-of-mouth” a very important factor to explain the future behavior and it is the link between satisfaction and loyalty ( Hutchinson et al., 2009 ; Kim et al., 2009 ; García, 2011 ; Lai et al., 2018 ; Xu et al., 2020 ). It is, however, essential to discover how the tourist's image of their destination, and their other motivations, drive them to choose that destination. To Tasci and Gartner (2007) , destination image is a key factor in successful tourism development. To Ejarque (2016) , this image has a vital importance in tourists' selection processes. And a tourist's motivation has an important impact on destination image formation, as Li et al. (2010) and Sancho and Álvarez (2010) explained in their studies. It is, however, interesting to investigate the influence motivation has on overall visitor satisfaction, as per Albayrak and Caber (2018) .

Conceptual Framework and Hypothesis

Research framework.

In this research, we reviewed the literature on the variables that affect tourist behavior (motivation, image and satisfaction). We then used the results of this review to lay the foundations of a behavior model using Structural Equations, with Partial Least Squares (PLS) as the chosen method, as you can see in Figure 1 . This will indicate the links between those variables and the strength of these relationships. Thus, the main objective of the research is to analyze the links between tourist motivation, destination image and vacation satisfaction. And as secondary objectives, which complement the analysis, we expose:

- To research how motivations influence destination image formation.

- To analyze the link between destination image and satisfaction with rural tourism

- To research the importance of the affective and cognitive components of the image in forming the overall destination image.


Figure 1 . Proposed theorical model.

Research Hypothesis

Motivation has been widely studied by various authors and in different areas, from psychology to sociology and marketing. Motivation is the driving force of the process. A consumer can have a positive attitude to the purchasing process, an excellent image of the product or service, but if they aren't strongly motivated, the process doesn't begin. A motive, as Santesmases (2012 , p. 261) explains, is “the reason why the consumer purchases the product.” Consumers buy something because they get a benefit, and those benefits satisfy needs. Motivation is therefore, according to Santesmases (p. 261), “a general disposition that leads to the behavior aimed at obtaining what the consumer wants.” Kotler (2016 , p. 199) defines motive as “a need that is sufficiently pressing to drive the person to act.”

From the tourism point of view, motivation is one of the most important and most extensively studied variables. Wong et al. (2018) , point out the influence that motivations have on the tourism process, especially on the tourist. One of the early studies was by Dann (1977) . He attempted to explain the reasons why people travel, as well as their choice of destination. This was the first-time push and pull factors were discussed.

One of the most relevant and important studies of this topic is by Crompton (1979) . This author found nine key motives for a tourist's choice, seven of which were categorized as socio-psychological (escape from a perceived mundane environment, exploration and evaluation of self, relaxation, prestige, regression, enhancement of kinship relationships and facilitation of social interaction), and two cultural motives (novelty and education). The socio-psychological motive, also referred to as “push” motives, explain the wish to take holidays, while cultural motives, also called “pull” motives, explains the choice of the destination or the kind of destination. In addition to this author, Crandall (1980) , based on Crompton's work, continues the explanation of the value of motivation in tourist behavior, and list seventeen personal motives. These are, clearly, an extension to Crompton's nine motives.

Other authors, such as Line et al. (2018) , focus on the importance of motivations in tourist behavior. They explain the importance of motivation, with a special link between motivation and sustainability programs. González and Vallejo (2021) , they also explained that importance. Polo et al. (2016) evaluate the motivations with influence in the rural tourist in Spain, their behavior and the different strategies, and Prebensen et al. (2010) study tourist behavior, in this case, the sun and sand tourist and the link between motivations to travel, tourist satisfaction and intentions to communicate with others by word-of-mouth.

Regarding the practice of rural tourism, Penelas-Leguía et al. (2019) classified the different motivational factors into which tourist motivation is divided. These factors were natural and cultural motivations, social motivations, personal motivations, novelty motivations and escape motivations, reaching the conclusion that natural and cultural and social motivations are the ones that have the most influence on the formation of tourist motivation. Buffa (2015) , also focused on the study of cultural and natural motivations in rural tourism practice, concluding that tourists, especially the youngest, feel motivated when traveling to discover new cultures, new natural spaces, contemplate the natural and artistic heritage, be in contact with the local population and contact with nature. Han et al. (2017) , continues in this line, on the importance of nature and natural heritage in tourism decision-making. Luo and Deng (2007) , exposed the environment and nature as one of the main reasons that move tourists to visit a tourist area, while Gnoth and Zins (2010) and Kim and Prideaux (2005) , considered that motivation cultural and knowing the cultural heritage of the area, were the main reason that moves the tourist. Regarding social motivations, several studies point out this type as the main factor when making decisions by tourists. Van der Merwe et al. (2011) exposed the great importance of these motivations, after an exhaustive review of the literature. Lee et al. (2004) and Park et al. (2008) , focused their studies on the key importance of social motivations in the tourist's behavior. Moreno et al. (2012) , exposed the three main types of motivations that move tourists, highlighting cultural motivations and social motivations, as well as those of “self-expression.”

Therefore, we observe the importance of natural and cultural and social motivations in tourist decision-making, so we propose the following hypotheses:

Hypothesis 1.1 (H11): “Cultural and natural motivation is the main dimension of the tourist motivation.”

Hypothesis 1.2 (H12): “Social motivation has an important relevance in the formation of tourist motivation.”

About the link between tourist motivation and destination image, several authors have studied this influence. For Li et al. (2010) , destination image is an essential component of tourist destination success, because if the place has a recognizable image, it will be more likely to be chosen by tourists as a place for recreation and leisure. In this study, they recognize three motivational factors: intellectual, belonging and escape. Each of them has a direct effect on the cognitive component of the image, but for the escape dimension of the motivation, this effect is negative. For the affective component of the image, the relationship is direct if we focus on the escape motivation as well as on the cognitive component.

Sancho and Álvarez (2010) point out the importance of motivation in the decision-making process of going on a trip and determining where to go. They consider five main motivations: past experiences, physical, cultural, interpersonal, social and prestige. They concluded that interpersonal and social motivations have a direct effect on the cognitive component of the image and on the overall image. They also found that the cognitive component has a direct effect on the affective component, which in turn affects the overall image. Madden et al. (2016) also analyzed this link, carrying out an exhaustive analysis of the literature, as did Dagustani et al. (2018) , Pereira and Hussain (2019) and Santoso (2019) , who presented a behavior model studying the relationship between motivations, destination image and tourist satisfaction. In addition to these authors, many others have studied the close relationship between motivations and destination image, and we would highlight the studies by Mayo and Jarvis (1981) , Michie (1986) and Gong and Sun Tung (2017) . It is also worth highlighting the study of Hwang et al. (2020) , who study the relationship between the destination image and the tourist motivations, but inversely, how the destination image influences the formation of the tourist motivations.

We therefore conclude there is an important link between tourist motivations and destination image formation. Thus, we define the following as hypothesis:

Hypothesis 2 (H2): “Tourist motivation significantly positive influences destination image formation.”

Image is a key factor when tourists are choosing their destinations, and crucial when planning a trip ( Marine-Roig and Ferrer-Rosell, 2018 ). As Beerli and Martín (2002) point out, the image has an important impact on tourist behavior, and varies from person to person. In the same way, Foroudi et al. (2018 , p. 97) explain that “a positive image is much more likely to be taken into consideration and probably chosen in the decision process.” But this image has to be protected, because it can turn into a negative variable, as Bachiller et al. (2005) explain when they state the problem that overcrowding causes in the destination image. Additionally, Alrawadieh et al. (2019) , point out that this feeling of overcrowding doesn't influence the image, but does influence intentions to visit the place again.

What does “destination image” mean? Many authors have contributed their own definitions. To Crompton (1979) , destination image is “the sum of all beliefs, ideas and impressions that people associate with a destination.” In 1993, Echtner and Ritchie (1993 , p. 3) defined it as “perceptions of individual destination attributes, as well as, total, holistic impressions.” Baloglu and McCleary (1999 , p. 870) considered destination image to be “an individual's mental representation of knowledge (beliefs), feelings and global impression about an object or destination.” Sanz (2008) , p. 98 explains to us that destination image is “the global perception of a destination, in other words, the representation in the tourist's mind of what he or she feels and knows about it.” And López-Sanz et al. (2021b) defined destination image as the overall mental impressions each person has of a place or destination formed by knowledge as well as by the feelings the destination produces in them.

All these definitions have a common link. Destination image is made up of two components: the cognitive and affective components. Baloglu and McCleary (1999 , p. 870) defined both. For them, the cognitive component “refers to beliefs or knowledge about a destination's attributes,” whereas the affective component “refers to feelings about a destination, or attachment to it.” Many other authors, however, have written about the difference between the cognitive and affective components. Beerli et al. (2003) explain that the affective component is “individuals' feelings toward a destination or as an emotional response of individuals to a place,” while the cognitive component “is knowledge about a destination.” To Lee et al. (2008 , p. 814), the cognitive component “derives from factual information,” while the affective component “can be viewed as one's diffuse feelings about a specific tourism destination.” Other authors, such as Zhang and Zhang (2020) , emphasize this division of destination image. We can therefore state that destination image is formed by the link between two components: cognitive, related to beliefs and knowledge acquired from external information sources or experience; and the affective component, related to feelings. These are strongly linked, in such a way if that the cognitive component changes after the first vacation, the affective response will also be affected. The overall image is made up of these two components. A destination choice depends on the overall image, and when we refer to destination image, we mean the overall image.

We have analyzed the components into which the overall destination image is divided. It is now necessary to focus on the elements that influence the tourist in forming that image. Several authors have discussed these variables. For Baloglu and McCleary (1999) , the variety and type of information sources, and the tourist's age, education and motivation all influence destination image formation. For Beerli and Martín (2002) , the perceived image of a place is formed by the interaction of several factors, such as the tourist's motivations, previous experience, preferences and other personal characteristics (sex, age, etc.); other psychological factors such as values, personality, lifestyle, etc. also have an influence. To Sirakaya et al. (2001) , consumers' choice processes are influenced by their motivations, attitudes, beliefs and values, as well as other types of factors, such as time. Gunn (1993) states that destination image undergoes a constant process of modification. For this author, there are several steps in image formation. First of all, a destination image is generated from previous information (documentaries, acquaintances' experiences, etc.). Later, due to promotional information such as brochures, an induced image is generated. Nowadays, for those referred to as “2.0 tourists,” the importance of “on-line reputation” is increasing, so innovation is essential to building an initial image of destinations, especially the more traditional ones. For some places, destination image may be reinforced by heritage-related cultural events that are publicized over social networks ( Campillo-Alhama and Martínez-Sala, 2019 ). This image may help individuals choose a destination, depending on their motivations. After the vacation and the tourist's personal experience, a final image is generated. For Um and Crompton (1990) and Ugarte (2007) , the perceived image of a place will be formed by the interaction of the projected image (the destination image the promotional information projects) and the individual's needs, motivations, experience, preferences and personal characteristics, and this image is very resistant to change, even in times of economic crisis ( Gkritzali et al., 2018 ). Thus, we propose the following hypotheses:

Hypothesis 3.1 (H31): “Affective destination image has a positive influence on destination image formation.”

Hypothesis 3.2 (H32): “Cognitive destination image has a positive influence on destination image formation.”

Overall satisfaction with the vacation is a very interesting variable, because, depending on the level of satisfaction or dissatisfaction, the degree of tourist loyalty to both the geographical area and the accommodation can be calculated. For Serra (2011 , p. 122), after the vacation the tourist, through introspection, evaluates the experience and a feeling of satisfaction or dissatisfaction is created. As a result, a post-trip attitude is generated. This modifies several factors, such as the tourist's perception of the destination and attitude toward it, and these in turn influence the destination image for the tourist and his or her relatives and friends. The development of a more digitalized and responsible economy is also highlighted from the point of the view of the influence on other consumers, as explained by Moreno-Izquierdo et al. (2018) , in which the collaboration between citizens and tourists is the frame of reference. Sevilla and Rodríguez (2019) emphasize the emotion caused by viewing the landscape during the journey and stay, which produces a satisfactory or unsatisfactory response to the tourist's expectations. Park et al. (2018) concluded that providing additional information before each visit can improve tourist satisfaction. Fernández-Herrero et al. (2018) , state that tourist “autonomy improves overall satisfaction with the destination,” while Rojas-De-Gracia and Alarcón-Urbistondo (2019) explain the link between satisfaction and the decision-making process.

In studying tourist satisfaction, it is very important to perform multilevel analysis. This enables us to see the “big picture” of the factors affecting overall tourist satisfaction ( Radojevic et al., 2017 ). The link between destination image and satisfaction has been widely researched. The study by Olague de la Cruz et al. (2017) focuses on the link between tourist motivation, destination image and satisfaction. They explain how motivations influence both cognitive and affective image, and both of this influence tourist satisfaction. For Rajesh (2013) , destination image has a direct influence on both overall satisfaction and destination loyalty. Additionally, tourist satisfaction influences destination image—in other words, the new destination image a tourist generates after the vacation depends on the level of satisfaction. It's important to review the research by Martín et al. (2016) , into the influence of destination image on satisfaction, and of satisfaction on loyalty. Herle (2018) , Cruz et al. (2018) , Machado et al. (2009) , Huete and López (2020) and López-Sanz et al. (2021a) also researched this relationship. And we wish to highlight the study of Nysveen et al. (2018) , who found a link between “green destination image” and tourist satisfaction. The expectancy disconfirmation theory will be used to explain the relationship between variables. This theory is very popular in consumer satisfaction research ( Elkhani and Bakri, 2012 ; Kim et al., 2014 ). Positive disconformation happens when the final result is higher than initially expected, while negative disconformation happens when product performance and the final result is lower than expected at the beginning. Thus, we define the following hypothesis:

Hypothesis 4 (H4): “Destination image has a positive influence on overall trip satisfaction.”

Correia et al. (2013) , explain that there is a relationship between the motivational “push” and “pull” variables and overall tourist satisfaction. Battour et al. (2012) , who concluded that tourist motivation positively influences vacation satisfaction, should also be reviewed. For their part, Hidalgo-Fernández et al. (2019) also conclude in their study that there is a relationship between the motivations or interests of the tourist and satisfaction with the trip, turning this satisfaction into recommendation of the destination. This relationship is also found in their study Forteza et al. (2017) and He and Ming (2020) .

The decision to choose the Spanish province of Soria was taken because of several factors. First, this is Spain's least populous province [a population of 88,658 in 2020 ( Instituto Nacional de Estadística (INE), 2021 )], and this area is suffering a worrying level of depopulation. And, on the other hand, it is a province with great potential from the touristic point of view, because it has a wide variety of natural and cultural resources. The province includes many very different areas: the highlands, with a special landscape and similar weather to the Scottish Highlands (hence its name); cities with an important cultural heritage, such as El Burgo de Osma and Soria itself; very interesting archeological areas including Numancia, La Dehesa's Roman Villa and the ancient village of Tiermes; and attractive natural sites such as La Laguna Negra, the Lobos River Canyon and the Fuentona sinkhole.

This province therefore can and must leverage the Rural Tourism boom in Spain and implement rural development based on the service sector, not only in terms of the increasing amount of accommodation available, but also through all the related activities. This includes promoting tourist routes, both cultural through the province's many heritage sites, and natural routes, that can in turn link with adventure and sports tourism. The province can also promote “experience-based tourism,” as explained by Mazarrasa (2016) . This kind of tourism offers some activities which are relatively passive, such as visiting a winery to observe the steps in wine production. There are also, however, activities for which the tourist can actively participate in the experience.

The significance of this study lies in the fact that it can be a starting point for the right marketing actions to improve Rural Tourism in the area and prevent depopulation to the extent possible. To be successful, these actions must be supported by the national, local, provincial and regional authorities.

Survey Design

This research is based on a descriptive study using primary data from a questionnaire used on a representative sample of tourist over 18 years old who visited the province of Soria (Spain) and stayed in a rural tourism establishment. The primary selection of the different items of constructs was based on a review of the literature. Previously, the items had been carefully chosen, and before sending out the survey, preceding qualitative research was carried out through a focus group, which included five professors who are experts in tourism and consumer behavior. As a result of this qualitative research, the final questionnaire was achieved, consisting of four constructs with a total of 16 items: five for cognitive image ( Baloglu and McCleary, 1999 ); two for affective image ( Baloglu and McCleary, 1999 ); seven for tourist motivation ( Crompton, 1979 ) and two for tourist satisfaction ( Lee, 2009 ). In order to obtain data to analyze, 1,658 valid questionnaires were completed by adult tourists who stayed in a rural tourism establishment in the province, between January 2016 to January 2017, which implies a sampling error of ± 2.45% (with a confidence interval of 95.5% and p = q = 0.5) (see Table 1 ).


Table 1 . Technical details of the study.

The data was collected through personal surveys. All items of the questionnaire used the same 4-point Likert-type scale, where 4 = a lot and 1 = little bit, except affective image and satisfaction items, where the scale was a 5-point Likert scale where 5 = strongly agree and 1 = strongly disagree (see Table 2 ).


Table 2 . Scales of the model's constructors.

A pretest of this questionnaire was performed on 50 people who had visited the province and stayed in a rural tourism establishment, to evaluate if the scales were well-constructed and the multiple questions on the questionnaire were understood. After checking that everything was correct, the data were collected personally in the tourist areas of Soria province.

Sample Size and Composition

The total sample consisted of 1,658 valid questionnaires of visitor over the age of 18 who were staying in a rural tourism establishment in the province of Soria (see Table 3 ).


Table 3 . Sample information.

The purpose of analyzing the information collected is to transform it into relevant information that assists the decision-making process. Several statistical techniques were applied to the data collected in the research, including Principal Component Analysis (PCA), and a model was prepared using Partial Least Squares Structural Equation Modeling (PLS-SEM). The programs used were IBM SPSS Statistic, DYANE 4 ( Santesmases, 2009 ) and SmartPLS 3.2.28 ( Ringle et al., 2015 ). Hair et al. (2011 ; p. 144) recommend selecting PLS-SEM if the research is exploratory or an extension of an existing structural theory. Hair et al. (2014) also recommend using PLS-SEM when formatively measured constructs are part of the structural model, the structural model is complex (many constructs and many indicators) and the data are non-normally distributed. It is possible to find these issues in this model, including a very complex structural model that was presented in the first moment.

Factor Analysis of Variables

To facilitate the analysis of some of the variables studied, a factor analysis was performed. The chosen technique was Principal Component Analysis (PCA), a factor analysis technique that reveals the underlying dimensions or factors in the relationships between the values of the variables analyzed ( Harman, 1976 ). It is a statistical method used to summarize and structure the information of a data matrix to reduce the number of variables ( Lozares and López, 1991 ). The aim of this method is to reduce the number of dimensions by obtaining linear combinations with maximum variance that are uncorrelated to the original variables ( Aguilera et al., 1996 ). In this study, we have used this technique to reduce the number of variables for the destination image and motivations constructs, due to their high number of variables. After our analysis, the cognitive destination image, which started with 31 variables, had just five factors, “variety of natural attractions vs. situational elements,” “cultural interest,” “entertainment and luxury,” “restful and attractive environment,” and “attractive accommodation.” Regarding affective image, we started with four variables that were reduced to two factors, “internal affective image” and “external affective image.” Finally, for motivations, the initial 23 variables were reduced to five factors, “cultural and natural,” “social,” “personal,” “novelty,” and “escape.”

Having retained the relevant information in the factors, as mentioned above, this research aims to find possible links between motivations, rural tourism destination image and tourist satisfaction for Spain's Soria province. The research focuses on studying the direct and indirect relationships between the variables. To analyze the cause-effect relationships between latent constructs ( Hair et al., 2011 ) the Partial Least Squares (PLS) technique, which enables researchers to examine the structural component of a model ( Gefen et al., 2000 ), was chosen. PLS-SEM has advantages over other SEM tools, such as LISREL, because PLS can be applied to explore the underlying theoretical model ( Gefen et al., 2000 ). PLS-SEM doesn't require restrictive distributional assumptions about the data ( Compeau et al., 1999 ), and the use of consistent PLS (PLSc) corrects the behavior of relationship coefficients between latent variables in reflective constructs. If, as in our study, the results are very similar, it is not necessary to apply this algorithm, but the deviations of the model's path coefficients are minimized ( Dijkstra and Henseler, 2012 ).

Behavior Model

The research studies the links between seven measured variables ( Figure 1 ). This required a selection to be made.

For tourist motivations, we started with five factors ( Table 4 ), but only cultural and natural motivations, and social motivations, have a loading of at least 0.3. The other ones (personal, novelty and escape), don't reach the required level. The valid items of every motivation factor are shown in Table 4 .


Table 4 . Rotated components matrix (Varimax method).

The destination image variable may be composed of the factors of the cognitive and affective images ( Table 4 ). Of the seven factors obtained for the cognitive and affective images, only variety of natural attractions vs. situational elements image, for cognitive image, and internal affective image, for affective image, have a loading of at least 0.3 or more on their constructs, resulting in seven valid items ( Table 2 ). To measure the satisfaction, tourist perception was used, based on the abovementioned theoretical discussion, with two items: destination satisfaction and satisfaction in terms of expectations.

Using all these factors, we presented a theoretical model, as seen in Figure 1 . The abovementioned link, between motivation, image and satisfaction is shown, as well as the factors that affect them most strongly.

The questionnaire was designed to measure seven different latent constructs: motivation (a second order construct with two dimensions), destination image (a second order construct with two dimensions) and satisfaction. The factor analysis was run to separately validate the measurement of those constructs. The Varimax rotation was used to assist in understanding the initial factor model. The factorial loads (see Table 4 ) provide evidence for the factorial validation of the scales.

The PLS measurement model is evaluated in terms of the inter-construct correlations, the correlations between items, Cronbach's Alpha, the reliability and the average variance extracted for every construct (AVE). In this case, the seven latent variables (two of which are second order constructs) are made up of scales with reflective items. The reliability, internal consistency and discriminant validity of every component in this study are assessed below.

The reliability assessment examines how each item is linked to the latent construct ( Table 4 ). In this respect, the most generally accepted and widely used empirical rule is the one proposed by Carmines and Zeller (1979) , who state that, to accept an indicator as part of a construct, it must have a loading ≥0.707. In this case, only one of the 16 indicators used ( Table 2 ) doesn't reach this acceptable reliability level. However, as Chin (1998) and Barclay et al. (1995) explain, a loading of at least 0.5 can be acceptable if other indicators that measure the construct have higher assessed reliability. Furthermore, Falk and Miller (1992) propose a loading of 0.55—in other words, 30% of the variance of the manifest variable is related to the construct. The loading-−0.64—that didn't exceed the first condition did exceed these latter proposed levels and has a higher loading in its construct than in any other. These results strongly support the reliability of the reflective measurements (see Table 5 ).


Table 5 . Model cross loading.

Finally, motivation and image are valued as second-order reflective constructs for a molar model ( Chin, 2010 ). The above discussion provides a basis for supporting the quality of the measurements of the components of these second order variables. The loadings of the dimensions of these constructs are also of interest. The statistics for all the dimensions were as expected, except for affective image, whose loading as a second order variable of image is 0.587 and therefore doesn't reach the AVE level of 0.707, although it exceeds the value of 0.55 (see Table 6 ).


Table 6 . Internal consistency and AVE.

With respect to internal consistency, two measurements are taken into consideration, Rho value (rho_A) and Composite Reliability (see Table 6 ). Nunnally and Bernstein (1994) suggests 0.7 as a level indicating “modest” reliability which is suitable for the early stages of research, and a stricter one of 0.8 for basic research. As shown in Table 6 , both indicators exceed the 0.8 value (except affective image, for which composite reliability is > 0.7 and Rho value is under 0.3).

Absolute fit indices determine how well a priori model fits the sample data ( McDonald and Ho, 2002 ). These measures provide the most fundamental indication of how well the proposed theory fits the data. Included in this category is the Standardized Root Mean Square Residual (SRMR). The SRMR is an absolute measure of fit and is defined as the standardized difference between the observed correlation and the predicted correlation. Thus, it allows assessing the average magnitude of the discrepancies between observed and expected correlations as an absolute measure of (model) fit criterion. A value < 0.10 or of 0.08 are considered a good fit ( Hu and Bentler, 1999 ). For this research model SRMR is 0.069 (below 0.08). Incremental fit indices, also known as comparative ( Miles and Shevlin, 2007 ) or relative fit indices ( McDonald and Ho, 2002 ), are a group of indices that do not use the chi-square in its raw form but compare the chi-square value to a baseline model. One of these indices is the Normed Fit Index (NFI). This statistic assesses the model by comparing the chi-square value of the model to the chi-square of the null model and values > 0.95 are recommended ( Hu and Bentler, 1999 ) for a good fit. After the analysis it was found a NFI of 0.987 indicating a good fit.

The discriminant validity is obtained in two ways. First, the Average Variance Extracted (AVE) is examined, which indicates the amount of variance captured by the construct in relation to the variance due to measurement error. The value must exceed 0.50 ( Fornell and Lacker, 1981 ). As shown in Table 6 , all the AVE values exceed that value, except for image construct, which is close to it (0.492). Secondly, the square root of AVE (in the diagonal of Table 10 ) is compared to the other constructs (below the diagonal in Table 7 ). These statistics suggest that every construct is stronger in its own measurement than in the measurements of other constructs.


Table 7 . Correlation and square root of AVE for first order latent variables.

Collectively, these results support the quality of the measurements. Specifically, the statistics suggest that the components of our measurements are reliable, internally consistent and they have discriminant validity.

Results of SEM

A PLS estimated model allows us to establish the variance of the explained endogenous variables by the constructs that predict them. Falk and Miller (1992) suggest that the explained variance of the endogenous variables ( R 2 ) should be ≥0.1. Related to this model, the indexes (see Table 8 ) explain the large variance of the second order variables, because the R 2 values of the dimensions (both image and motivation) exceed 0.5 (except in the case of the affective image, which exceeds 0.3). The R 2 value for satisfaction also exceeds 0.3. Stone-Geisser's Q 2 value must exceed 0, and this suggests a predictive relevance related to the endogenous construct model ( Chin, 1998 ). In this case, all the variables exceed that value (the lowest is satisfaction with a value of 0.2).


Table 8 . R square and stone-geisser.

To obtain indications of external validity, image and tourist satisfaction need to be significantly linked with motivation, as the theory explains ( Bagozzi, 1994 ). Based on this literature, a model in which motivation is a precedent and has a positive relationship with destination image was estimated, and this is also a precedent of satisfaction (see Figure 2 ).


Figure 2 . Results.

Table 9 shows that the path coefficients are significant ( p < 0.001) since there aren't any non-significant coefficients. The significance of the coefficients was estimated using PLS bootstrapping with 500 samples, an appropriate quantity to obtain reasonable estimations of standard error ( Chin, 2010 ).


Table 9 . Significance of the coefficients.

And since one of our hypotheses focuses on the indirect effect of the motivation with satisfaction variable, we can observe the existing relationship (0.47) through the results of Table 10 .


Table 10 . Direct and indirect effects of the coefficients.

In summary, in the model there is a direct and strong link between motivation and destination image (0.853). Motivation thus seems to be an important element influencing destination image. We have therefore proven that our hypothesis 2, “Tourist motivation significantly positive influences destination image formation” is correct (see Table 11 ).


Table 11 . Summary of hypothesis verification.

Regarding the hypotheses 1.1 and 1.2, “Cultural and natural motivation is the main dimension of the tourist motivation” and “Social motivation has an important relevance in the formation of tourist motivation,” the dimension of cultural and natural motivation is the one that reflects motivation (0.837) better than the other dimension of motivation, social motivation (0.251). It is possible that the type of motivation that is most influential will vary depending on the characteristics of the destination. In this case, motivations related to nature and culture are the most significant (see Table 11 ).

It is the cognitive image dimension that best reflects destination image (0.905) and there are some problems in considering the affective image to be a good reflection of destination image. The hypothesis 3.1, “Affective destination image has a positive influence on destination image formation” is therefore incorrect, while hypothesis 3.2, “Cognitive destination image has a positive influence on destination image formation” is correct. There is also a positive and direct link between destination image and satisfaction (0.556), and as a result we can accept the hypothesis 4, “Destination image has a positive influence on overall trip satisfaction” (see Table 11 ).

On the other hand, and indirectly, a relatively important link (0.470) between motivation and satisfaction has been found (see Table 10 ), especially if we consider the current difficulty in influencing satisfaction. This is a consequence of a strong link, which is direct and positive, between motivation and destination image. This relationship between tourist motivations and satisfaction was studied by Correia et al. (2013) , explained that there is a relationship between the motivational “push” and “pull” variables and overall tourist satisfaction. Battour et al. (2012) , who concluded that tourist motivation positively influences vacation satisfaction, should also be reviewed. For their part, Hidalgo-Fernández et al. (2019) also conclude in their study that there is a relationship between the motivations or interests of the tourist and satisfaction with the trip, turning this satisfaction into recommendation of the destination. This relationship is also found in their study Forteza et al. (2017) and He and Ming (2020) . Thus, we can check that motivation seems to be an important element in influencing both destination image and satisfaction, which has significant entrepreneurial consequences.

Discussion and Conclusions

Theorical discussions.

This study aims to analyze how rural tourism, in line with the Sustainable Development Goal number 8 of the UNWTO ( World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), 2021 ), can serve to sustainably develop the most depopulated rural areas ( Marzo-Navarro, 2017 ). We must focus on the social and economic sustainability of this type of tourism, which should translate into improving the quality of life of the indigenous population of the area ( Pérez de la Heras, 2004 ), and culturally and socially enriching the local population ( Rytkönen and Tunón, 2020 ). The social well-being of local economies is linked to tourism in those areas ( Tasci, 2017 ) and increases the sustainability of the local population.

The analysis of rural tourism has been carried out through the relationship that exists between the motivations that move the tourist ( Dann, 1977 ; Wong et al., 2018 ), which is one of the most important variables for decision-making in tourism ( Prebensen et al., 2010 ; Polo et al., 2016 ; Line et al., 2018 ; González and Vallejo, 2021 ); the image of the tourist destination, a key factor when tourists are choosing their destinations, and crucial when planning a trip ( Marine-Roig and Ferrer-Rosell, 2018 ); and satisfaction with the trip, a relationship studied by Forteza et al. (2017) , Hidalgo-Fernández et al. (2019) and He and Ming (2020) . This relationship has served to study the behavior of rural tourists related to sustainable development goals, especially goal number 8 “decent work and economic growth.”

From an academic point of view, the proposed Structural Equation Model could be used in many studies researching the links between the three variables studied (tourist motivation, destination image and trip satisfaction), because its reliability and predictive capacity have been proven, as shown by the results obtained. It is not only useful for research into rural tourism, but also for general tourism research, as well as for research into other kinds of rural tourism that have recently become popular, such as adventure tourism, sport tourism, cultural tourism and, in countries with a traditional wine industry, wine tourism.

Summary, we have demonstrated the importance of these three variables in the study of the rural tourism behavior and, thanks to this study, real and effective measures can be taken for the sustainable development of the rural area and thus be able to meet the objective number 8 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Managerial Discussions

From a managerial point of view, this research can assist all those authorities that influence rural tourism policies in Spain's Soria province and the rest of Spain, when making policies to promote this kind of tourism, specially promoting the cognitive image that each of us have of a tourist area. We have seen the importance to these rural areas, the country's most depopulated, of tourism ( Flores and Barroso, 2012 ) as a complement to their more traditional activities (principally agriculture and livestock). Depopulation in these areas is a critical problem ( del Romero, 2018 ), since in some places, including some that offer rural, cultural, and natural attractions, the population has almost completely disappeared. This also leads to a loss of heritage for the province and for the country in general.

The results obtained demonstrate the importance of studying the variables used, especially the image of the tourist destination ( Beerli et al., 2003 ), for the promotion of the tourist area. This promotion seems very important, as explained by Baloglu and McCleary (1999) and Zhang et al. (2018) . And as we have verified, this image is formed especially as a result of the knowledge we obtain about the destination ( Sanz, 2008 ), much more than from the feelings that the destination causes in us.

It is also important, as Prebensen et al. (2010) , Polo et al. (2016) , Line et al. (2018) , and González and Vallejo (2021) explained, to analyze the motivations that drive tourists. Sancho and Álvarez (2010) point out the importance of motivation in the decision-making process. Therefore, the different administrations involved in tourism policies, as well as the owners of rural establishments, should consider the different motivations that influence decision-making ( Wong et al., 2018 ), as well as the formation of the community destination image ( Mayo and Jarvis, 1981 ; Michie, 1986 ; Gong and Sun Tung, 2017 ). In addition, due to the indirect but strong link between tourist motivations and satisfaction with the trip ( Fernández-Herrero et al., 2018 ), the need to cover these motivations must be considered, especially cultural, natural and social motivations ( Penelas-Leguía et al., 2019 ), so that the tourist has a satisfactory trip, which will positively influence loyalty with the destination ( López-Sanz et al., 2021b ) and will have an impact on better business results for tourist establishments of the area ( Moliner et al., 2009 ).

From the point of view of the Sustainable Development Goals, especially Goal 8, “Decent Work and Economic Growth,” the development of rural tourism can directly help to achieve this SDG ( Alcivar, 2020 ), as well as to avoid depopulation that threatens these regions of Spain so much ( Maroto and Pinos, 2020 ), promoting quality employment and avoiding exodus to the city and to other richer areas.

Limitations and Future Research

The main limitation of this study is that we have focused on a Spanish province. It would be convenient to apply this methodology to a complete study, focusing on the Autonomous Community of Castilla y León, to which Soria belongs, or even the entire Spanish state. A comparative study could also be made with other provinces with similar levels of depopulation in Spain, to compare both the strategies that are carried out in each of them, as well as the differences in the motivations that move tourists to those other provinces like the image that each one projects.

Another future line of research would be to extend the study to other different motivational factors, not only natural and cultural and social, to obtain other conclusions about tourist behavior. In addition, due to the discovery of the strong indirect effect that tourist motivations have on satisfaction, the study could be extended toward loyalty with the destination, and check if this indirect effect also applies between the tourist motivations and loyalty with the destination.

Finally, a similar study could be carried out by directing the questionnaire to tourists who focus on nature tourism, to discover any differences between them and rural tourists.


Therefore, if we look at in the principal and secondary objectives, the proposed model ( Figure 2 ) below, shows the direct link between the motivations that drive a tourist and his or her perceived destination image, as well as between image and overall tourist satisfaction with the trip. A link between motivations and satisfaction has been demonstrated, although it is indirect. These relationships demonstrate the importance of these three variables in the rural tourist behavior.

This study is important to be able to make decisions, especially from the point of view of local, regional and national tourism policies, to promote sustainable rural development and economic growth in the area, promoting job creation, to meet the Goal number 8 of Sustainable Development. With this economic development, a sustainable social development is directly achieved that is one of the pillars for the eradication of inequalities and poverty in rural areas.

Data Availability Statement

The raw data supporting the conclusions of this article will be made available by the authors, without undue reservation.

Author Contributions

All authors contributed to conception and design of the study, organized the database, performed the statistical analysis, wrote the first draft of the manuscript, wrote all the sections of the manuscript, contributed to manuscript revision, read, and approved the submitted version.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

Publisher's Note

All claims expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated organizations, or those of the publisher, the editors and the reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in this article, or claim that may be made by its manufacturer, is not guaranteed or endorsed by the publisher.

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Keywords: motivation, destination imagen, satisfaction, rural tourism, SDG

Citation: López-Sanz JM, Penelas-Leguía A, Gutiérrez-Rodríguez P and Cuesta-Valiño P (2021) Rural Tourism and the Sustainable Development Goals. A Study of the Variables That Most Influence the Behavior of the Tourist. Front. Psychol. 12:722973. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.722973

Received: 09 June 2021; Accepted: 23 June 2021; Published: 23 July 2021.

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*Correspondence: José María López-Sanz, jm.lopez@uah.es ; Pedro Cuesta-Valiño, pedro.cuesta@uah.es

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Home > Books > Rural Areas - Development and Transformations [Working Title]

Tourism and Rural Development

Submitted: 21 December 2022 Reviewed: 20 March 2023 Published: 21 June 2023

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.111400

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Tourism development and the arrival of tourists have created new social and economic functions and opportunities for the residents of the villages. On the other hand, the development of residential constructions and changes in the type of traditional rural houses and their materials have created new jobs in rural areas. Although tourism has positive and favorable effects for rural areas in the recent decades, different negative effects have been imposed on the rural environment, especially in the environmental sector. Rural tourism as a subset of tourism can have effects in different dimensions not only for a country but also for rural communities. In order to this type of tourism to be in the proper process for the sustainable development of rural areas, the principles of sustainable development based on economic, social, and environmental dimensions and based on a systemic approach should be emphasized in all its stages and processes. In this chapter of the book, the relationship between tourism and rural development is emphasized through the approaches of entrepreneurship, participation, marketing, business, environment, and technology. Tourism has caused the mentioned economic and social approaches to be improved in the villages and various developments have taken place in this field.

  • rural tourism
  • development
  • entrepreneurship
  • participation
  • environment

Author Information

Hojat ollah sadeghi *.

  • Faculty of Geographical Sciences and Planning, University of Isfahan, Isfahan, Iran

Skandar Seidaiy

  • Faculty of Geographical Sciences and Planning, Department of Geography and Rural Planning, University of Isfahan, Isfahan, Iran

*Address all correspondence to: [email protected]

1. Introduction

In the last century, tourism has developed so much that it has been noticed as an industry all over the world. This industry can easily compensate problems such as unemployment and lack of income in countries and cause income creation, job creation, private sector growth, and infrastructure development in countries. This is the reason why today governments are trying to expand tourism in their country with correct and calculated planning [ 1 ]. Tourism is a complex phenomenon and due to its activity, it has consequences in social, political, cultural, and economic fields. The large volume and complexity of providing tourist services has led to the development of the travel and tourism industry [ 2 ]. Through its content and role, tourism represents a distinct field of activity and an essential part in the economic and social life of most countries in the world [ 3 ]. The tourism industry generates significant economic benefits for the host community or tourist destination. Particularly in developing countries, one of the primary motivations for a region to introduce itself as a tourist destination is the expected economic improvement [ 4 ]. Therefore, tourism has economic, social, and cultural benefits for the host community and even the tourists themselves, and these effects on a geographical area include job creation, income diversification [ 5 ]; participation, improvement of infrastructure, improvement of facilities, and environment [ 6 ].

There are various types of tourism, one of the most popular of which is rural tourism. The importance and popularity of this type of tourism is such that experts in the field of tourism believe that villages will become one of the most important destinations for tourists in the future [ 7 ]. This type of tourism shows the life, culture, art, and heritage of rural areas and benefits the local community socially and economically [ 8 ]. It also provides connections between tourists and local communities to enrich the tourist experience.

One of the most important strategies to solve the problems and challenges of rural areas is rural tourism resources. In recent decades, rural tourism has been considered as an approach for the economic development of sensitive places, especially in rural areas [ 9 ]. Tourism can have both positive and negative aspects on the livelihood of destination communities [ 10 ], which depends on various conditions and factors. Therefore, one of the strategies for the development of rural areas is to promote tourism activities, in such a way that the impact of tourism activities on rural communities and the environment has been recently noticed. The research results [ 11 ] show that if rural tourism is managed well, it can contribute significantly to the development of the rural community; otherwise, it brings negative results on the environment and the rural community. Therefore, today efforts are focused on supporting rural tourism in order to improve the quality of tourist accommodations and using information and communication technology to restore, protect, manage, and promote the great natural and cultural heritage in rural areas [ 12 ] and it is tried to use the tourism development strategy to solve rural challenges such as poverty [ 13 ], migration, improving income, diversifying jobs [ 14 ], reducing pressure on nature [ 15 ], improving the quality of life, improving the level of technology [ 16 ], improving environmental and physical conditions [ 17 ], population stability, improving public services, and socioeconomic stability [ 9 ]. Therefore, tourism as a rural development strategy, if planned and has a systematic framework, can have benefits and positive effects. Of course, what is more important in this field is knowing the important sources of tourism, because every rural area has its own capacities, tourism development should be planned based on these capacities.

In this research, an attempt has been made to point out some of the effects and developments of tourism in rural areas. Mentioning these issues can show the role of tourism in rural changes and development.

2. Research approach

The data collection method is divided into two types: theoretical literature review and based on the personal experiences of the authors. In the past years, the authors have had a large part of their studies on tourism and rural development. The result of their survey and theoretical research has formed the important and great part of this study. Mental exploration in authors’ studies along with theoretical researches in this field forms the contents of this research. Tourism has highly dependent on the place and environmental attractions and cannot know the place well without field research. Therefore, in this research, the main emphasis is on the recognition and views of the authors on tourism, the village, and their relationship with each other according to previous investigations.

3. Rural tourism and development

3.1 the concept of rural tourism.

In the definition provided by the World Tourism Organization, it emphasizes the link between the activity and experience of visitors with a wide range of products based on nature, agriculture, fishing, and the lifestyle of villagers [ 18 ]. Rural tourism can be defined as a tourism product whose approach emphasizes the importance of supply management and marketing activities. Rural tourism, as a tourism product, is a complex offering of a settlement (or a group of settlements) that includes special elements of hospitality and attractiveness, and these elements are organized into special products [ 19 ]. Based on this definition, we can enumerate the characteristics of rural tourism, one of the most important of which is the village-based activities and products of rural tourism, which must have certain characteristics. In this type of tourism, tourists are particularly interested in communicating with local communities and are interested in getting to know the lifestyle of local people [ 20 ]. Also, rural tourists tend to participate in the usual activities of the villagers’ life. That is why small and home businesses are emphasized in this type of tourism. Rural tourism as an approach or concept is used when rural culture plays a key factor of its product. In fact, rural tourism depends on the characteristics of the region where the tourism activities take place [ 21 ].

Rural tourism refers to a structured form of tourism in which tourists stay for some time in villages and surrounding areas (often traditional villages in remote areas) and get information about villages, local culture, ways of life, and customs of the people. These tourists often participate in some rural activities as well. In this type of tourism, the villagers themselves are the owners and managers of the tourism facilities and in this way directly benefit from the benefits of tourism [ 22 ]. According to “the World Conference on Rural Tourism” rural tourism includes all types of tourism with facilities and welfare services in rural areas, which allow the use of natural resources and attractions along with participation in rural life (farm and agricultural work( [ 23 ]. Tourism village is an efficient solution to increase the income of villagers ( Figure 1 ) [ 19 ].

rural tourism.ro

The main factors in tourism.

3.2 The relationship between tourism and rural development

Rural tourism is one of the solutions for the social and economic development of rural communities. Due to the limitations of rural areas and the increase in the population of villages, the capabilities of rural tourism can be used to increase employment. Also, the natural and cultural attractions of the villages can attract the attention of tourists [ 24 ]. Rural tourism as a supplemental income can help increase the welfare of rural residents, reduce migration, and develop rural areas. Tourism increases the quality of life of residents and reduces the difference between rural and urban areas. It seems important to note that tourism cannot be the dominant part of the development of a region, but it may be a driving force with other branches of the region’s economy [ 19 ].

According to the changes that have happened intellectually, culturally and socially in the world in the last few years, the needs of tourists have changed and unlike the past, today’s tourists are looking to experience new spaces, among which nature tourism in rural spaces plays an important role [ 23 ]. Therefore, rural areas are considered a good field for the development of this type of tourism due to the abundance of natural and rich resources they have, and on the other hand, due to its nature, tourism is a very good opportunity for the development of rural areas and it can helps to revitalize villages, create employment, and income for local people [ 7 ].

Rural tourism will help to preserve the natural and cultural heritage and provide opportunities for women and youth. Research indicates that the urban population is expanding both globally and within the country, and it is predicted that by 2050, around 86% of the world’s population will be urban dwellers [ 25 ]. Therefore, according to the conditions of urban life, the need to travel in nature and rural areas will be much more. This is where rural areas become important in providing tourism opportunities to expanding urban communities. In addition, this urban population provides a very good market for rural tourism. Tourism can play an important role in diversifying the rural economy and its expansion in rural areas contributes to the stability of the population and economy of these areas and provides the basis for achieving sustainable rural development [ 26 ]. As the research of Premovic et al. (2018) also showed, the most interesting destinations for modern tourists are rural tourism destinations with untouched nature and special human values, and tourism can play an important role in maintaining and promoting rural destinations and rural development [ 27 ].

3.3 Tourism as a strategy for sustainable rural development

It can be said that tourism is a new approach (category) in rural development texts, including the approach of sustainable development, which like development, has various dimensions and effects. Therefore, the development and growth of rural tourism is often proportional to its contribution to the social and economic reform of rural areas [ 28 ]. Therefore, different views and theories can be expressed about tourism in rural areas and how it is related to rural development [ 23 ].

As some people consider tourism as the only way to grow and develop rural areas, they emphasize that the current direction of growth is led by tourism. Therefore, tourism is the main element of moving toward the revival and reconstruction of rural areas, and some people know it as a part of the tourism market and believe that it can be compared with other forms of tourism such as sun, sea, sandy beaches [ 29 ]. Some also believe that tourism can be considered as a philosophy for sustainable rural development and, from this aspect, can be presented three important views.

3.3.1 Tourism as a strategy for rural development

Rural tourism as a development strategy.

The transformation of less developed rural areas [ 23 ].

3.3.2 Tourism as a policy for the reconstruction of rural areas

In this strategy, tourism is emphasized as a main part for rural reconstruction, even in areas where tourism activities have not flourished in the past. Proponents of this theory believe that they are able to reduce the excessive reliance of rural producers on agriculture and use them in new economic opportunities. For example, in Eastern Europe, more emphasis is placed on tourism as a tool to rebuild villages after the decline of agriculture, while in Africa, more emphasis is placed on diversification of less developed rural areas.

Rural tourism as a reconstruction policy.

Reconstruction against the decline of agriculture.

Developing and improving tourism products [ 28 ].

3.3.3 Rural tourism as a strategy for sustainable development and protection of natural resources

Sustainable tourism policy in today’s world is a comprehensive approach that wants the long-term growth of the tourism industry without damaging the natural ecosystems. It also emphasizes that in the form of tourism development, humans will be able to modify or manipulate certain aspects of the environment in a positive or negative direction. For this reason, during the past few years, the concept of sustainable tourism has been advanced and common to some extent in order to respond to the threats of unorganized tourism. Sustainable tourism has studied tourism across most borders and has established a triangular relationship between the host community and its land on the one hand and the guest community (tourists) on the other hand. In the past, in this triangular relationship, the tourism industry had the first place. Currently, rural tourism aims to adjust the pressure and crisis between the three sides of the triangle and establish a balance in the long term. Also, this part of tourism aims to minimize the cultural and environmental damages, provide the satisfaction of the visitors, and in the long term, provide the preparations for the economic growth of the region and a way to obtain a balance between the final growth of tourism and the needs of protection and maintenance of natural resources ( Figure 2 ) [ 30 ].

rural tourism.ro

The effects of rural tourism.

3.4 Tourism and rural environment

Tourism activities have complex and extensive relationships with the environment; because one of the important features of the environment is that it is an attraction for tourists [ 31 ]. On the other hand, most of the activities related to the development of tourism infrastructure and services, such as roads, hotels, restaurants and camps, may be incompatible with the environment [ 32 ]. Also, the excessive development of tourism leads to increased pressure on tourist destinations and changes in the physical texture and socioeconomic structure of the host society [ 33 ]. In addition to the social and economic consequences of the development of tourism, positive and negative environmental consequences can also be seen in various regions.

Tourism boom in every rural area also brings environmental effects, which can cause irreparable damages if the negative effects of tourism continue. The presence of tourists in the rural environment can have two positive and negative aspects. The presence of tourists in rural areas will provide positive changes in increasing environmental awareness, improving the network of rural roads, increasing visual appeal and improving rural architecture, improving the quality of residential buildings, improving the quality of religious buildings, and improving the condition of sanitary waste disposal [ 34 ]. Also, the presence of tourists in rural areas causes negative changes in natural landscapes, water pollution, air pollution, change in microclimate or local air, soil erosion, loss of diversity of plant and animal species, destruction of natural resources, increasing garbage and waste materials, and increasing illegal construction [ 35 ]. Therefore, tourism in rural environments can have extensive changes and transformations, which are from different aspects, including environmental, economic, social. These developments can have two positive and negative aspects, and its impact on the rural environment depends on various factors, including the type of tourism management.

3.5 Tourism entrepreneurship and rural development

In the tourism approach, entrepreneurship is very important. The role of tourism entrepreneurs can be vital for the development of rural areas. Therefore, it is necessary to find a new means of livelihood and an alternative for entrepreneurs. Environmentally responsible entrepreneurship can be presented based on resources and experiences derived from nature and should specially emphasize the extraordinary values of renewable natural resources [ 36 ]. Nature-based entrepreneurship can have the following characteristics: nature-based, native, local, handicraft, personal.

Companies that are active in the field of nature-based entrepreneurship are usually small. Small-scale tourism enterprises have the potential to provide the necessary force in communities to help transform local resources into tourism products and services [ 37 ]. Tourism entrepreneurship in the rural sector has the following effects.

1. Increasing employment. 2. Increasing per capita income at the national and local level. 3. Increasing national production. 4. Developing exports. 5. Cultural and artistic effects [ 38 ].

Creation of handicraft production workshops for women, including carpet weaving, rug weaving, cloth weaving, etc.

Creating industrial workshops for young people, such as making all kinds of equipment suitable for the environment, etc.

Creation of special industries for packaging rural products in agriculture and industries.

Setting up small industrial companies, women entrepreneurs in traditional sectors such as making and producing dolls and toys.

Creating companies in the field of tourism villages.

Setting up handicraft sales centers in tourist villages in line with entrepreneurship.

Providing various services to tourists and creating service entrepreneurship, for example, in the field of accommodation, nutrition, health, tourist guidance [ 39 ].

The ability to discover opportunities, provide the necessary financial resources, identify the best places and sites, hire designers for physical development, provide human resources needed to manage physical facilities and services for the development of tourism is very important [ 40 ]. Due to the constant and successive changes in the needs of tourists, the tourism industry needs innovative and creative solutions to survive and develop, which is achieved through entrepreneurship [ 41 ].

In today’s world, entrepreneurship is one of the most important aspects of tourism, which is increasingly important [ 42 ]. Because the changes made in the combination of income generation and society’s economy are among the factors that show the necessity of entrepreneurship in tourism more and more. It can be said that entrepreneurship in rural tourism means using creativity and innovation in tourism-related activities. It should be noted that simply having innovation and creativity alone will not lead to the emergence of entrepreneurship, unless it is combined with managerial capabilities and functions [ 43 ].

In rural tourism entrepreneurship, it is believed that economic, political, and social conditions exist as a motivating force for progress, and entrepreneurial activities must be supported by society and governing institutions [ 44 ].

Encouraging creativity, encouraging innovation and its development, increasing self-confidence, creating and developing processes, creating wealth in the tourism sector and finally in society and increasing public welfare.

Increasing the profits and capital of investors and ensuring the well-being of the tourism sector and ultimately social well-being.

Transformation of values and transformation of their nature in creating new values in tourism.

Filling gaps in the labor market, that is, new decisions are made according to the transformation of the labor market conditions and the provision of new opportunities. Transition from economic stagnation, compensating for economic backwardness and facilitating the process of rural growth and development.

Preventing the backwardness of the economy during the crisis and the inability of economic sectors to create employment.

Cultural development and elimination of social anomalies by establishing communication with different tourists in rural areas [ 37 ].

3.6 Tourism and rural businesses

Business can be defined as a state of employment in general, including activities that include production, purchase of goods, and services with the aim of selling them in order to earn profit [ 45 ]. One of the topics that can be the basis for new jobs and businesses in villages is tourism business. Therefore, rural development is more dependent on the phenomenon of tourism businesses than in the past. Institutions and personalities promoting rural development consider new businesses as a strategic intervention that can accelerate the process of rural development, but it seems that they agree on the need to expand rural economic enterprises [ 37 ].

Tourism businesses are a central force for achieving economic growth and development. Without it, other development factors will be wasted. Accepting this point alone cannot lead to rural development and promotion of economic activities. There are non-agricultural uses of existing resources such as tourism and examples of diversification into non-agricultural activities in the fields of water resources, forest lands, construction, existing skills, and local capabilities, all of which are appropriate for new rural businesses. This issue has a lot of power in the tourism issue, because both directly and indirectly, it creates new businesses in the field of tourism [ 46 ].

What can be used to define the category of rural entrepreneurship includes business. This definition can be put forward in this way “Innovative use of village resources and facilities in order to hunt business opportunities.” Due to the small size of the villages, these types of businesses are on a small scale and are often between 10 and 20 people, and due to the predominance of agricultural and workshop activities, they have special efficiency. According to the changes of the current era and the entry into the information society, rural tourism businesses have also undergone changes and transformations and all kinds of service, production, and industrial and information technology businesses can be seen in it [ 47 ].

Among the specific examples of business in the tourism sector, ecotourism can be mentioned. Ecotourism is one of the opportunities of sustainable tourism, the growing process of which is accelerating, and its enthusiasts are increasing day to day, both as hosts and as guests. In recent years, various ecotourism centers have been established. Ecotourism, in simple terms, is “creating and developing local and simple accommodation and catering conditions in different areas of old rural contexts, whose architecture is compatible with the natural environment, and has services such as providing traditional and local food and drinks [ 47 ]”.

Building a local residence or hotel is another example of tourism capacities in the field of business [ 36 ]. Rural tourism businesses include various cases, but in general, food, accommodation, medical and transportation businesses can be mentioned.

3.7 Technology in rural tourism

Information and communication technology or ICT plays a key and important role in the tourism industry and its integration with tourism is vital for its success [ 48 ]. ICT empowers consumers to identify, order, and purchase tourism products and supports the globalization of the industry by providing tools to develop, manage, and distribute offers.

Information and communication technology, especially the Internet, empowers the new tourist to gain information with a special credit of money and time [ 37 ]. These searchers are not interested in crowded packages and are more interested in planning and making their own choices. Because packages containing tour information are lost through the production of dynamic packages produced by active companies in favor of independent organized tourism facilities. In a situation where people’s patience is very low, permanent applicants do not want to delay and wait. The key to success is quickly identify the needs of the applicant and provide them with the daily services and facilities in a way that satisfies their needs [ 49 ]. Impact and high speed of ICT in rural tourism, infrastructure, and application software are critical. ICT allows customer relationship management and supply chain management to combine into one resource that facilitates a variety of operations, product selection, ordering, research, tracking and payment, and reporting with one of these. On the other hand, the development of ICT has caused a change in supply and demand. Unique options, quality of information, personal leisure time, and tourist behavior are among the factors that increase the functionality of ICT. Information and communication technology has also increased the quality of travel, so that more searches are made about travel and more information is obtained in this field, which is possible to better understand the needs of customers and provide them with the required services.

Therefore, today’s world has inevitably become a global village with wide and deep connections. On the other hand, with the passage of time, tourism has become an income generating and saving industry for different countries. In such a way that the incomes from it in some countries are several times the oil rich incomes of other countries [ 50 ].

The need to pay attention to tourism and use new technologies in order to expand it and use its countless economic benefits for countries and follow the relationship between the development of information and communication technology and the development of tourism has made it necessary [ 49 ]. Tourism, in relation to the technological and economic platforms resulting from globalization, is considered a solid principle in economic policies in the third millennium.

The developments resulting from the above discussions in relation to tourism have led to the formation of electronic tourism on the one hand, and on the other hand, to the formation of virtual tourism. With the rapid growth of information technology in the framework of the electronic exchange system, marketing and travel have become faster, more cost-effective and have opened up new markets in the tourism industry [ 51 ].

In general, the use of information and communication technology and its expansion in the field of tourism supply and demand caused tourists to evaluate and check the status of destinations before traveling and form a virtual experience in the framework of the tourist perspective. Also, this has provided the grounds for the democratization of choosing destinations for travel, which has been facilitated on the basis of liberalism resulting from globalization. This shows the flexibility of providing the tourism product in relation to the supply, which crystallizes the timely production of the post-Fordism production method. In other words, the tourism product in a special variety includes responding to the personal and high demand of tourists and enables tourists to choose tourist destinations for travel in line with their personal motivations and desires [ 23 ].

The development of information and communication technology in tourism can lead to the development of rural tourism [ 52 ]. The development of ICT in the rural tourism sector has been booming and expanding during the last two decades. ICT can be very effective in the sustainable development of rural tourism. This influence can be seen in various dimensions of information, advertising, introduction of tourist attractions, production of tourism database, marketing of rural products, protection of natural environment in line with tourism development, etc. In order to be able to use the development capacities of information and communication technology in rural tourism, first of all, different infrastructures in this field should be provided in the villages [ 51 ].

In general, information and communication technology in sustainable rural development and especially the development of rural tourism can bring about extensive social, economic, and environmental changes. The effects of this approach in rural areas lead to their economic prosperity. Because there are various capacities in the field of tourism and economy that technology can be useful in this field. Of course, there should be proper management in this field so that the negative consequences of technology do not disturb the life of the rural community and do not threaten the tourism of these areas. Information and communication technology can play a significant role in the prosperity of handicrafts, which is one of the sectors of rural tourism. This is because purchasing various products, including handicrafts, is one of the most important revenue-generating industries in tourism [ 23 ].

The first step in communication and information technology in rural tourism is to create a strong and usable database. This bank consists of objectives, products, and suitable facilities in this field. The existence of a database is one of the tools of this technology, and with its use and regular planning, extensive activities can be carried out at a high speed. The costs associated with creating a database can be very high compared to not establishing it and instead focusing on the growth and promotion of the industry.

4. The first step

Knowing government organizations related to the tourism industry, NGOs and tourism companies, recreational tours, student tours, people interested in tourism, and recording this information in the database is the first step. For example, assume the above groups are customers and the tourism organization is the marketer. The first activity of a marketer is to know the objectives, strong communication, and accurate identification of the market in order to be able to provide the best type of goods according to their demands by receiving the opinions and demands of the customers [ 23 ].

5. The second step

Accurately knowing the tourist attractions of rural areas and collecting their detailed information and registering them in the database. These attractions can be divided as follows: historical, natural, recreational, pilgrimage, industrial, scientific, research, sports, therapeutic, exhibitions and other natural factors such as weather, soil, mineral resources [ 23 ].

6. The third step

Collecting all the information available in rural areas such as hotels, restaurants, camps, streets, medical centers, banks, bank tellers, residences, accesses is the next step. After collecting information and registering them in the database, the first stage of this technology in the field of tourism has been completed [ 23 ].

6.1 Environmental approach in rural tourism

All human activities, including tourism, occur within and depend on the environment [ 7 ]. Therefore, tourism activity and the environment are two inseparable phenomena that will have diverse effects on each other. In fact, from this point of view, the relationship between tourism and the environment is not only a negative relationship, but its extent is emphasized by defining the acceptance capacity of the environment and environmental considerations. Of course, unreasonable population growth along with various problems in the field of sustainable development such as poverty and inequality, lack of proper education and health, environmental problems, desertification, soil erosion, weather, biodiversity extinction, problems related to waste materials exposed to destruction are all significant issues [ 23 ]. In order to avoid the absolute destruction of the environment, all people (both officials and people) at the global or national level, and especially at the local level, must understand the important fact that progress and development in any sector, including tourism, must have a sustainable process and its fruits will benefit not only the current generations but also the future generations.

Tourism development policies should consider the principles and goals of sustainable development that can be considered in the concept of tourism projects. Another reason why the role of tourism should be examined is its complex relationship with the natural environment, which is stated in the 1972 UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the World’s Cultural Heritage and Natural Environment. We must remember that heritage has a very broad concept that includes natural landscapes, archeological sites, and the built environment in addition to cultural and scientific behaviors and all of these are related to sustainable development and tourism management [ 53 ].

The relationship between rural tourism and the environment seems complicated, but this relationship includes activities that can have adverse environmental effects. Many of these effects are related to the creation of public infrastructure such as roads and different facilities such as residences, hotels, restaurants, shops [ 54 ]. The negative effects of rural tourism development can destroy environmental resources. But the tourism industry has a high potential to create beneficial effects on the environment with various cooperations in preserving the environment. It is a solution to increase awareness of environmental values and can act as a tool for financial protection of natural resources and increasing economic importance [ 7 ].

This industry has a high potential in increasing the protection of the environment and spreading the awareness of environmental problems, because rural tourism puts people in closer contact with nature and the environment. This communication itself can increase the awareness of environmental values and cause environmentally conscious behavior and activities to protect it [ 55 ].

Therefore, it is very important to mention that tourism does not always cause environmental problems. These problems are due to lack of proper management. In addition, in some cases where sustainable management of environmental resources has been carried out in rural areas, tourism has had positive effects on sustainable rural development and has also contributed to the economic prosperity of rural areas. The development of ecotourism in a number of tourist villages has not only harmed the environment there, but has also helped to preserve the environment and strengthen the economy of the villages. In general, tourism can have both positive and negative effects on the environment.

6.2 Tourism marketing and rural development

Currently, tourism and tourism marketing are becoming one of the main pillars of the rural economy. Also, development planners and policymakers refer to the rural tourism marketing industry as the main pillar of sustainable development [ 56 ]. In this regard, rural tourism is considered to be a part of the tourism industry, which can play an effective role in the development and development of villages and, as a result, development and diversification of the village economy, with proper planning and identification of opportunities.

One of the effective factors in marketing is advertisement. In general, lack of centralized advertising and marketing can be one of the obstacles to the development of the tourism industry [ 57 ]. Today, in the tourism industry, advertising should be used professionally as the most important tool. Because professional advertisement can be considered as a winning tool for the advancement of cultural goals inside and outside. Otherwise, it is a waste of time, capital, and energy [ 57 ].

Advertisements at the macro-level and relying on internal and external policies

Advertisements at the individual level and based on thematic issues

Advertisements at the macro-level and based on different devices of communication

Advertisements on a large scale and using the assistance provided by the government

Advertisements on a macro-level based on business needs from the private sector [ 23 ].

Determining the objectives of the advertisement

Avoiding tasteism and designing expressive and expressive form and content

Identifying suitable media for advertising

Allocation of sufficient funds

Applying innovative and new methods, in sync with today’s values and technology

Identify ways to reach effective advertising

Correct exploitation of advertising centers after choosing them [ 23 ].

So it is true that in today’s world, marketing efforts are much more important than production and sales. If a country has tourist facilities and attractions, but does not include the methods of introducing these attractions and potentials and offering them to the target market in its grand plan, it will definitely not be successful. On the other hand, considering the many problems that exist in some countries on the way to the growth and development of the tourism industry and attracting tourists, the role and importance of using professional and modern marketing and large investments in this regard becomes much more visible [ 58 ].

Of course, marketing is also true in the field of rural tourism, because rural tourism is a type of tourism. Taking a close look at the state of this type of tourism and the challenges facing it, it can be concluded that one of the main factors in rural tourism not being able to have a proper place is the lack of advertising and marketing in this field. Because rural geographical areas are virgin and attractive areas for tourists, but due to the weakness of marketing and the lack of extensive advertising with various methods of internet, media, television, etc., significant growth and development has not been formed in this field. Therefore, adopting favorable policies and laws in the field of rural tourism marketing is essential, because it can play a major role in the prosperity of this industry.

Rural tourism marketing cannot be evaluated properly. Because, firstly, marketing has not happened as it should for different products and different sectors, and what we have seen has been limited. Secondly, in other economic sectors of the village, including the agricultural sector, the villagers are currently facing different problems in selling their products. Therefore, tourism is also considered a part of the rural economy and is affected by its developments. Therefore, when there is no change in the marketing of other economic sectors of the village, tourism is not excluded from this situation [ 23 ].

As mentioned earlier, rural areas relying on their social, cultural, natural, handicraft, agricultural, animal husbandry, etc., capacities and attractions can bring about various developments in the field of tourism, and in order to form its basic and systematic framework, various factors should be considered. Marketing is one of the first actions and influencing factors [ 59 ].

To promote rural products, enhance the capacity of rural and nomadic communities to welcome and host tourists, ensure that local customs and cultures align with the development of tourism, establish a clear market for product sales, provide necessary services to tourists, carry out effective advertising and information campaigns to promote rural areas and address other related factors, are all crucial for attracting tourists to rural destinations.

All these actions are done if marketing is emphasized in rural tourism, Because all these things can be solved in the field of marketing. What can be inferred in rural tourism today is that marketing does not have such a strong position in this field and it seems that there was no accurate planning and foresight based on the sustainable development approach for this important factor in the field of tourism. Therefore, it is an undeniable necessity to pay attention to this issue in the discussion of rural tourism today.

6.3 Participation approach in rural tourism

In tourism in general and rural tourism as a service and human-oriented industry, the constructive role of people for development should not be overlooked. Looking at the people in this industry should not only look at the consumer and that only a certain group of society is responsible for production and supply. People should be involved in the development of this industry and decision-making and policies so that they participate in the implementation of programs and get to know the problems, obstacles, and benefits of this industry well. Among the various factors and elements in the development of this industry, people’s participation should be considered as the axis and indicator of development [ 60 ]. The importance of participation is especially evident in rural areas, and this issue depends on the views of the officials of each region, both public and private [ 61 ]. Attracting the participation of local people, as a visa for the youth of the region, will not only contribute to economic development and job creation in each region, but will also strengthen the cultural development and awareness of local values in the local people of the region. Also, since sustainable rural tourism seeks to improve the quality of life of local residents, enhance the experiences of tourists and protect the environment of the destination, it is inseparably related to people and society, and the participation of local communities is essential for the continuation and development of fundamental planning for the development and management of the tourism industry [ 23 ].

The participation of rural people in the development of tourism is part of a global movement, and for this reason, global programs such as the Comprehensive Tourism Program emphasize the development of tourism at the regional and local levels with the participation of local people. Experience has shown that the output of a large part of the tourism effects of studies of the attitudes of residents in host communities is the need to increase public participation and especially the attitude of developing the destination with a greater focus on the community. Of course, to achieve this, we need new cooperative attitudes in tourism [ 62 ].

Participation of the local community is a real element in the realization of tourism plans and solutions.

The participation of the local community contributes to the sustainable development of tourism in several aspects.

The participation of the local community increases tourism satisfaction and the continuation of tourism.

Local community participation is a way for tourism professionals to prepare better tourism programs.

Local community participation helps in fair distribution of tourism costs and benefits among community members.

Local community participation provides local needs.

The participation of the local community leads to the strengthening of the process of establishing democracy in tourism destination [ 23 ].

So, in general, the participation of rural people in the tourism process, from planning to executive and operational stages, is essential for the development of this sector. The presence and participation of local communities can solve problems and obstacles in this direction and provides the basis for maximum use of the capacities of the tourism sector in rural areas. The experiences of different countries, especially in East Asia, from the discussion of people’s participation in the development of rural areas confirm this issue well. In fact, achieving the sustainable development of rural tourism can only happen through the cooperation and active participation of people and officials of all institutions. Perhaps the biggest reason for the failure of rural development and tourism programs is the lack of people’s participation [ 23 ]. Therefore, the current situation of planning and development of tourism in rural areas on the one hand and the lack of proper results from these plans on the other hand, doubles the necessity of attention and emphasis on participatory planning.

6.4 Tourism development in sample villages

In the end, two tourism villages in Iran are introduced as examples, which have accepted changes and developments in terms of economy, infrastructure, culture, etc., as a result of the development of tourism.

6.4.1 Shayvand village in Khuzestan Province, Iran

Shayvand village is located in Khuzestan Province in the southwest of Iran. Shayvand village has unique attractions for tourism due to its proximity to the dam lake and the Karun river on one side and the Zagros mountain range with its oak forests, rivers, waterways, waterfalls, rocks, and the favorable nature on the other hand.

Shayvand region is a part of Shalo- and Mongasht-protected areas. Shayvand waterfall is one of the most important attractions of this village. The height of this waterfall is 90 meters and it is located on the eastern slopes of Mongasht Mountain. Although the existence of the waterfall has made Shayvand village known as a tourist village, in addition to all these beauties, there are ancient monuments in this village that prove its historical antiquity. Among these tourist attractions, you can visit an old caravanserai from the Safaviyeh period, a cemetery, a castle belonging to the third and fourth millennia BC, as well as Mohammad Imamzadeh, an old dungeon (it was once used as a prison and is 25 meters deep) and also mentioned prominent inscriptions around the village.

The tourist attractions of this village have attracted tourists and developed its tourism in such a way that part of the economic structures of the village have moved toward tourism and tourism plays an important role in the economy of this village. In addition, culturally and socially, due to the arrival of tourists, this village has received various impacts.

Among the most important changes in this village with regard to tourism development, we can mention the diversity of employment, handicrafts development, women participation, the improvement of the village environment, entrepreneurship, the improvement of the village road and technology development in the village ( Figure 3 ) [ 23 ].

rural tourism.ro

Shayvand village.

6.4.2 Ziarat village in Golestan Province

Ziarat village is located seven kilometers from Gorgan city in Golestan Province of Iran, which is connected to Naharkhoran by a beautiful forest road. Ziarat village attracts tourists with its tourist attractions such as Imamzadeh, hot mineral water, waterfall, towering and green mountains, pleasant weather. Tourism development in this village has caused developments and changes in terms of facilities and services. Today, there are all kinds of services such as shops, local residences, hotels, repair shops, restaurants, banks, and other centers in this village and different needs of tourists are provided in different dimensions. Another noteworthy point about this village is the change in the architectural style of the houses, which are almost similar to urban houses in terms of architecture. In other words, its texture is close to urban texture.

Tourism in this village has had various effects, the most important of which are women employment, the development of handicrafts and indigenous crafts, income improvement, the increase of facilities, the increase of ecotourism houses, health promotion, youth entrepreneurship, Internet expansion, and people participation in tourism projects [ 23 ] ( Figure 4 ).

rural tourism.ro

Ziarat village.

7. Conclusion

Rural tourism is one of the main structural and functional indicators of development programs in many countries of the world and is an important part of economic activities and creating infrastructure to achieve sustainable development. Rural tourism is a type of tourism in the rural environment that emphasizes the traditional culture and texture of the village, rural arts and industries, and traditional customs and it can play an effective role in the development of rural areas by proper and principled planning, identifying its advantages and limitations. Rural tourism brings benefits to the society of rural areas. When tourists visit rural areas, they support the local economy and contribute in different ways. Rural tourism contributes to the development of rural areas and the standard of living of host communities.

Rural tourism is a type of growing tourism and it is not just about staying at a farm or visiting rural areas, it is more than that. Rural tourism works for the benefit of the host community of rural areas as well as the surrounding natural environment through the preservation and protection of natural resources. Creating diverse jobs, improving income, improving services and facilities, cultural interactions, modifying behavioral patterns, improving infrastructure, creating suitable housing, environmental changes, women’s participation, entrepreneurship, marketing, growth of local handicrafts, selling products, etc., are the most important the effects of tourism development in rural areas.

Tourism can be very effective in rural development through various drivers. The relationship between tourism and rural development can be improved through entrepreneurship, partnership, marketing, business, environment and technology approaches. In other words, rural areas have various economic and social capacities, and adopting the appropriate approach and framework for their exploitation is considered an important issue. In this direction and for rural development based on tourism, appropriate approach should be adopted according to local conditions and natural and human characteristics. Therefore, tourism has caused the economic and social approaches mentioned in the villages to be improved and various developments have taken place in this field. Therefore, entrepreneurship can provide favorable platforms for the development of tourism through the creation of diverse economic and social structures in the tourism sector, because entrepreneurship is based on creativity and innovation, and considering that tourism is also moving toward creativity in the current era, and these two approaches, entrepreneurship and tourism, can complement each other. Also, we cannot ignore the important role of technology in this field, because technology also plays an important role in accelerating various services and processes of tourism and rural development. Community-based participation, importance to environmental issues, and creating businesses suitable for tourism in rural areas are also other economic and social approaches to tourism development in rural areas. The result of adopting and implementing these approaches in rural areas with a focus on tourism can lead to the development of rural areas.

In other words, the result of these changes and effects can lead to sustainable tourism development and the framework of rural sustainable development with regard to tourism can be very effective. Therefore, rural tourism can be a very important factor in shaping sustainable rural development, and this issue is realized through various social, economic, and environmental factors and indicators ( Figure 5 ).

rural tourism.ro

The sustainable development of rural tourism.

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  6. EAFRD Compilation: project examples from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development


  1. Romania rural tourism

    15 Days. Discover rural Romania by wandering through idyllic villages, hiking to a sheepfold, spending a full day at a farm, learn pottery and brick making and horse-back ride through the countryside. And here and there stop for a dip in a pool, a heliothermic lake, a river or a waterfall. The tour offers great opportunities for family bonding ...

  2. Rural Tourism

    Best Tourism Villages by UN Tourism. With the vision of making tourism a positive force for transformation, rural development and community wellbeing, UN Tourism launched the 'Best Tourism Villages by UN Tourism' initiative.. It seeks to advance the role of tourism in valuing and safeguarding rural villages along with their associated landscapes, knowledge systems, biological and cultural ...

  3. Rural Tourism and Agro-tourism in Romania

    Ionel Marian, 2017. " Rural Tourism and Agro-tourism in Romania ," Ovidius University Annals, Economic Sciences Series, Ovidius University of Constantza, Faculty of Economic Sciences, vol. 0 (2), pages 226-231, December. Downloadable! Rural tourism is an important form of sustainable tourism, because it has a low negative impact on the natural ...

  4. On the Rug Route in Romania , Kilims and an Enduring Culture

    And Ruraltourism.ro was valuable in locating weavers I could stay with. My first and worst mistake was deciding to save on data by using a map rather than online navigation to get out of Bucharest.

  5. PDF Rural tourism and territorial development in Romania

    Abstract: Rural tourism in Romania has significant potential. The Romanian effort to develop and promote tourism in the rural area has been completed by the support provided by the European Union funds. In this context, the objective of this paper is to highlight the territorial development of the rural tourism market after the Romania's ...

  6. If you go to the Maramures villages

    Contact Nicolae Prisacaru, [email protected] or 011-40 -721- 046730 in Vadu Izei or George Iurca, [email protected] or 011-40-262-334110 in Botiza. Each charges about $27 per day plus mileage ...

  7. Rural tourism

    Rural tourism is a tourism that focuses on actively participating in a rural lifestyle. It can be a variant of ecotourism. Many villages can facilitate tourism because many villagers are hospitable and eager to welcome or host visitors. Agriculture has become more mechanized and requires less manual labor.

  8. Rural tourism: A systematic literature review on definitions and

    Abstract. The definition of rural tourism remains unclear and only a few studies have mapped the current state of knowledge in this field. Through a systematic quantitative literature review, this study extends the previous literature by investigating rural tourism definitions and challenges faced within developed and developing contexts.

  9. (PDF) Rural Tourism in the Apuseni Mountains, Romania. An

    This is an essay on prior findings of a larger research project in Albac area, Apuseni Mountains, Romania, where rural tourism dramatically developed during the last ten years.

  10. Rural tourism development in southeastern Europe: transition and the

    This paper evaluates current issues surrounding the role and development of rural tourism in southeastern Europe (SEE) (Romania, Bulgaria, Albania and much of former Yugoslavia), setting this within the wider context of change in post-communist central and eastern Europe (CEE). It examines local and global factors of development and change ...

  11. The benefits of tourism for rural community development

    The role of rural tourism. The UNWTO defined rural tourism as a type of tourism in which a visitor's experience is related to a wide range of products generally linked to nature-based activity ...

  12. PDF Analysis on Tourists Preferences for Rural Tourism Destinations in Romania

    In Romania, rural tourism is still a relatively new tourism product for the residents, ... Ruraltourism and agrotourism has developed rapidly in the last few decades in Romania [19]. Studies conducted in Romania stated that the most sought form of accommodation in the rural areas is represented by the agrotourism boarding houses, both by ...

  13. PDF Local Residents Attitude toward Sustainable Rural Tourism Development

    sustainability Article Local Residents' Attitude toward Sustainable Rural Tourism Development Iulia C. Muresan 1,*, Camelia F. Oroian 1, Rezhen Harun 2,*, Felix H. Arion 1,*, Andra Porutiu 1, Gabriela O. Chiciudean 1, Alexandru Todea 1 and Ramona Lile 3 Received: 16 November 2015; Accepted: 19 January 2016; Published: 21 January 2016


    1University of Life Sciences "King Mihai I" from Timisoara, Faculty of Management and Rural Tourism. Abstract: Romania is positioned very well at the international level, from the point of view of agritourism and rural tourism, and the locations that chose to capitalize on local resources in this way had nothing but to gain.

  15. Why Rural Tourism Is The Next Big Thing

    The World Tourism Organisation , provide a little more clarity. They state that rural tourism is 'a type of tourism activity in which the visitor's experience is related to a wide range of products generally linked to nature-based activities, agriculture, rural lifestyle / culture, angling and sightseeing'.

  16. Rural tourism: A systematic literature review on definitions and

    The review found that the 125 articles were mostly published in tourism-related journals (Tourism Management 15%), Journal of Sustainable Tourism 10%) and Annals of Tourism Research 8%), multidisciplinary journals (Sustainability 13%), and rural-oriented journals (Journal of Rural Studies 4%, and Agricultural Economics 2%).Overall, the majority of the case studies focused on Spain (11% ...

  17. Turismul rural, şansa României de a ieşi pe piaţa internaţională

    Turismul rural, şansa României de a ieşi pe piaţa internaţională. Ziua Mondială a Turismului, sărbătorită din 1979 în data de 27 septembrie, are ca temă turismul rural, o zonă pe care românii au descoperit-o tot mai mult în acest an constrânşi de condiţiile impuse din cauza pandemiei şi una în care România poate intra cu ...

  18. Frontiers

    1 Economics and Business Management Department, Faculty of Economics, Business and Tourism, Universidad de Alcalá, Alcalá de Henares, Spain; 2 Department of Business Administration, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, Universidad de León, León, Spain; Tourism is an activity that contributes directly and indirectly to the development of rural areas.

  19. [PDF] Local Residents' Attitude toward Sustainable Rural Tourism

    Tourism is a multi-faced activity that links the economic, social and environmental components of sustainability. This research analyzes rural residents' perceptions of the impact of tourism development and examines the factors that influence the support for sustainable tourism development in the region of Nord-Vest in Romania. Residents' perceptions towards tourism development were ...

  20. Tourism and Rural Development

    Tourism development and the arrival of tourists have created new social and economic functions and opportunities for the residents of the villages. On the other hand, the development of residential constructions and changes in the type of traditional rural houses and their materials have created new jobs in rural areas. Although tourism has positive and favorable effects for rural areas in the ...

  21. Rural Tourism

    It rests on the five pillars of economy, infrastructure, systems, demography and demand. Aatmanirbhar Bharat is about empowering individuals and enterprises to grow and make India prosperous and strong.". A large part of the Country is rural and a large population resides in rural areas. The village life in India is where you meet the 'real ...

  22. What is rural tourism?

    This paper reviews the development of tourism in rural areas. It defines rural tourism as a discrete activity with distinct characteristics which may vary in intensity, and by area. It discusses the differences between agri‐tourism and rural tourism, and examines why there should be a special relationship between tourism in the countryside ...

  23. PDF Rural tourism

    According to the United Nations' World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) definition, rural tourism is 'a type of tourism activity in which the visitor's experience is related to a wide range of products generally linked to nature-based activities, agriculture, rural lifestyle / culture, angling and sightseeing.