Rural tourism is a unique concept in the modern day tourism that focuses solely in participating in the rural life style. It can be termed as an alternate of agro tourism, a concept aimed in uplifting the rural areas inviting a higher inflow of tourists and nature freaks. Now-a-days, the concept of tourism is not restricted only within popular tourist destinations, but human minds with a hunger to explore more and something new have gladly embraced this off the track concept of tourism where they can interact directly with nature being in its lap. Moreover, present generation tourists are more inclined towards exploring virgin locales in remote areas of the country where nature itself is welcoming with its picturesque bounties.
A Complete Guide to Rural Tourism by Dr Prem – Definition, Importance, Trends, Best Practices and Destinations
Rural tourism – A way to encash nature:
Nature has always attracted man through its different forms and features, and rural tourism provides another unique gateway to explore nature. Tourism industry has been one of the main revenue earners in many countries, and with rural tourism getting impetus the governments are more optimistic about it. While primary sectors in developed economies are posting a poor show due to a staggering global economy, rural tourism can compensate for the low earnings appreciably.
Any ordinary village can be presented to the outsiders in a unique manner through this concept of rural tourism. A village by a seaside or riverbed can be turned into a site of attraction through proper development of infrastructure making it accessible to the tourists from far and near. Rural tourism is fast gathering momentum against the backdrop of this trend with many villages being developed into popular weekend getaways. Needless to mention rural tourism can provide the much needed financial boost to the rural people, beneficial for the country as a whole.
Showcasing nature and people through rural tourism:
Rural tourism provides a direct interaction with nature inviting the outsiders in active participation with local people and their culture. Exploitation of a rural tourist spot in incomplete without a direct interaction of tourists and localites. Understanding the lifestyle, customs and traditions of the rural people and enjoying their local cuisines and handicrafts completes the picture of rural tourism.
Proper infrastructure – The mainstay of rural tourism:
This form of tourism undoubtedly paves the way for the overall socio economic development of the rural areas contributing to the overall economic development of the country. Development of rural tourism primarily rests on a good infrastructure. An upcoming rural tourist destination should be easily accessible. Enjoying a vacation amidst natural serenity in not-so-far rural destinations has been the trend of the modern generation tourists.
Good communication facilities and upgraded basic amenities can magically turn a lesser known rural settlement into a popular tourist destination. Active government participation involving private landowners can bring up the infrastructure development necessary to boost rural tourism. Major developed countries in the world are now seriously considering tapping rural tourism in order to maintain a sustainable economic growth.
Definition of rural tourism and relevant terms
Rural tourism may be defined as tourist activities taking place in rural areas, generating a steady source of income to the rural people through the arrangement of specific holiday activities drawing attraction of tourists from far and near. The definition of rural tourism can be extended to eco-tourism and agro tourism, which are also fast gaining pace to uplift the livelihood of the rural people and to save our planet as well.
Several “green initiatives” to make our planet cleaner and greener has boosted eco-tourism mainly based on rural settlements encouraging the mass to adopt a greener pastime. The term Agro tourism or agricultural tourism is also quite relevant with rural tourism as this is also focused towards the betterment of the villagers.
Rural tourism – Interlinking Eco-tourism and Agro-tourism:
Promoting rural tourism is one of the effective means of developing the backward rural settlements where direct employment through small and medium scale industries or public enterprises is next to impossible. Agriculture dependent livelihood is not always enough for the villagers to meet all the ends. In such areas, rural tourism can have a much better impact in uplifting the livelihood of the villagers.
The likings of modern day tourists have changed a lot, and many prefer a tranquil natural ambience free from pollution to spend a vacation. Environment consciousness dwelling in the minds of urban tourists has driven them to opt for greener places for holidaying, ultimately boosting rural tourism through eco-tourism. Eco-tourism and rural tourism are almost spelt in the same breath as greener methods of tourism can be implemented in remote villages by setting up of solar power system and bio gas plants, promoting organic farming and minimizing the usage of non-biodegradable materials of daily use. Implementation of certain greener measures in villages demands a good investment, which can give good returns through promotion of eco-tourism.
Agro-tourism or agricultural tourism is being encouraged largely to promote the agricultural growth of villages through organic farming. Holidaying in agricultural farms and participating in various agricultural activities including crop rising, horticulture, apiculture, pisciculture and livestock breeding has been in the likings of many travelers. Standard and deluxe accommodations with upgraded basic amenities in these agricultural farms are inviting visitors in large numbers every year, which involves direct buying and selling of products generating extra income for local farmers.
Buying farm fresh products has been a craze of the modern, which ultimately benefits the local producers. Tourists not only take interest in these activities, but they also get to explore the surrounding flora and fauna which is an added bonus. Though agro-tourism is mainly encouraged for educational purposes, travel freaks are taking immense pleasure in this particular form of rural tourism. It is quite evident that both eco-tourism and agro-tourism serve the purpose of rural tourism.
Why rural tourism matters?
Rural tourism often does not get the desired attention due to the roaring business of popular holiday planners and trip advisors, coming out with attractive travel deals every season in order to rope in more urban travelers. The importance of rural tourism cannot be ignored if viewed in a broader perspective that not only provides an alternate way of healthy tourism, but also contributes significantly to the growth of the tourism industry.
In spite of monopolization of the tourism market by big tour planners, there has been a significant growth in the rural tourism past one decade or so. Thanks to the spiraling fuel prices and the unprecedented global economic meltdown. Rising health and environment consciousness have further fuelled the growth of rural tourism driving the die hard tourists and adventure seekers to opt for this mode of tourism.
Rural tourism matters in the long run in the following aspects:
Provides a healthy mode of tourism:
Urban dwellers sick of the daily hustle bustle of the city life full of noise and environmental pollution seek a respite from all these amidst the tranquil natural surroundings. Lush green rural areas devoid of all sorts of urban pollution along with the unique hospitality of the local people provide the much desired relief to the exhausted city dwellers rejuvenating their sick and tired body and souls.
Promotes Green Tourism:
Daily activities of urban life have caused enough damage to this planet upsetting the ecological balance, which has resulted in excessive greenhouse gas emission and global warming. Rural tourism promotes green tourism by adopting greener measures compelling the travelers enjoy their vacation in a greener and healthier manner. Rural tourism can make the best use of the renewable resources of energy and encourage the usage of bio-degradable materials.
Develops rural settlements:
Development of the rural sector has always been in the government’s agenda which can be achieved rapidly through rural tourism. Increase in revenues through higher tourist inflow cause faster development of the rural settlements bringing the backward rural people into the mainstream.
Improves the livelihood of the rural people:
Rural tourism provides the opportunity of direct buying and selling of the products reducing other secondary costs. Infrastructure development, setting up of upgraded accommodations and retail stores associated with rural tourism, generates a steady income to the rural people apart from the income generated from farming. Cottage and other small scale industries get a boost through rural tourism. All these factors contribute greatly in improving the livelihood of the villagers.
Prevents mass migration to cities:
Last but not the least, growing rural tourism can prevent mass migration of rural youths to cities in search of employment. This has been the trend past few decades, which has seen the worst forms of urban pollution. Due to unplanned civic amenities overcrowding in cities generates more waste the disposal of which has been a rising concern. Local employment generation in the rural sector will prevent this overcrowding providing better means of living for everybody.
What are the essential components of rural tourism?
Though promoting rural tourism has a far reaching impact in the economical growth of a country along with the boosting of tourism industry, there are certain components based on which this mode of tourism can be implemented in a full fledged manner. Rural tourism must be promoted without tampering its natural components in the name of infrastructure development. There are certain components that demand special attention to promote rural tourism.
Ancient villages with picturesque scenic beauty:
Ancient villages with a vast picturesque landscape present the ideal site for rural tourism. Gifted with natural bounties, these villages now have become most sought after destinations for free independent travelers and nature lovers. Tourists love to spend a few days amidst a serene natural ambience exploring in and around the particular place.
Standard local population of a rural settlement:
Villages or rural settlements targeted for rural tourism must be inhabited by a standard population. Too low population of a rural area cannot turn into a permanent site of attraction. Tourists from far and near would like to interact with the local people depending on them in various respects. Uninhabited locales may occasionally attract a few adventure freaks, but that will not serve the purpose of rural tourism.
Scope for natural exploration in and around the rural area:
Villages flanked by wild forests and hillocks offer a better scope for natural exploration much to the liking of a large number of tourists. Such settlements are hot spots where rural tourism can grow in leaps and bounds. Sighting rare species of flora and fauna adds to the excitement of holidaying. These spots can be ideal for hiking, trekking and angling much liked by the modern generation tourists.
Cultural heritage of the area:
Many rural areas have a rich cultural past which not only draws attraction of the travelers, but also of the academic minded people. People taking interest in bygone era flock in these areas digging out interesting facts of the past serving both the purposes of vacationing and intellectual enrichment.
Traditional local art and handicraft:
Traditional art and handicraft of rural areas is an added bonus that boosts rural tourism. Attractive local fabrics, artifacts and other natural products are demanded highly in the world market, which can change the economic scenario of a rural settlement.
Proper health and sanitation facilities:
Upgraded health and sanitation facility is a must to develop a rural settlement into a permanent tourist spot. This forms the basic infrastructure of rural tourism. Lack of basic amenities can mar the potential tourist market of a rural settlement. Tourists should feel at home being away from home.
Understanding the local sentiment is very important to promote rural tourism in a particular area. Though villagers carry a reputation of being hospitable but that may not be the case everywhere. Rural tourism is targeted towards development of the rural sector, and without local cooperation this may turn out to be an impossible mission. Picturesque rural areas dominated by certain tribal groups may be averse towards outsiders and may not allow tourism to flourish. Many tribes are not ready to accept the modern aspects of life and intentionally keep their doors closed to the outsiders.
What are the key drivers for rural tourism growth?
Human needs, likings and tastes change with time as human minds are always inclined towards exploration. Nature loving human beings are many in this planet, and it is this love for nature that has driven them to take refuge in her lap giving rise to rural tourism, an offbeat mode of tourism. Apart from the love for nature, other key drivers also contribute to the growth of rural tourism.
Necessity to boost economic growth of the country
The sudden global economic meltdown has left the entire world in jitters. The prevailing staggering global economic scenario has driven many big and small economies to look for additional revenue generation through rural tourism. Tourism industry in many countries contributes significantly in the overall economic growth, and rural tourism presented in attractive packages has been able to generate handsome revenue past few years.
Stressful urban life
Nature showcases herself in attractive forms and features. With rapid urbanization much of nature’s purity and serenity is lost, and human beings are left confined in an abnormal rat race and excessive mental stress seriously affecting their body and mind. Rural areas have been able to preserve that priceless natural beauty and serenity even today; thanks to the less ambitious villagers and their easy going lifestyle, and city dwellers are now-a-days preferring these natural niches to unwind themselves.
Rising tendency of inexpensive short vacations
Mounting air fares and fuel prices could not hold back the regular vacationers who have shifted their focus from expensive luxurious holiday packages to the less expensive holidaying options like rural tourism. The ultimate objective of holidaying is to enjoy variations, a much needed deviation from the monotonous lifestyle and modern day rural tourism packages have many attractions to offer.
Wide coverage by media:
Widespread coverage of upcoming rural tourist spots by the electronic and print media has been another key driver in the growth of rural tourism. Attractive advertisements posted by the tour planners providing detail information along with the customer reviews have attracted tourists in rural tourism.
Uncertain returns from agriculture and farming:
Uncertain climatic conditions are often affecting the agricultural output of a country, which has been a serious dampener in the path towards growth and development. One or two successive crop loss affects the lives of villagers leaving no other option for their survival. Rising trend of rural tourism has provided an alternative and steady source of income enabling them to withstand the hard days. Rural tourism has encouraged the agri-sector with farmers going for special harvest festivals in the harvest season showcasing their farm products, a specialty of a particular community.
Rising environment consciousness:
Modern day better educated travelers in the pursuit of green tourism or eco-tourism are opting for rural tourism in order to spend their vacations in a clean and green manner. Lots of environmental wastes are generated through tourism especially in the peak tourist season, which has been a matter of concern. Pristine snowcapped mountain ranges and the Antarctic region are also not spared from the litters of tourists. Rising environment consciousness has driven the better educated class towards rural tourism, which is rewarding and enriching in every aspect.
Growing trends of rural tourism
There are a few better ways than to break into a refreshing countryside getaway to escape the harsh grinding and relentless bustle of an overcrowded city life. The concrete jungle, the accompanying gadgets and gimmicks, the overgrowing traffic and last but not the least the mindless rat race just to survive through a day has bred the necessity of looking for a greener pasture in order to unwind the tired and exhausted mind within a reasonable cost. Yes, rural tourism provides an answer to the issue. Rural areas with its amazing biodiversity offer pockets of exquisite greenery amid countryside where the urban tourists breathe in fresh air charged with perpetual bliss and more importantly it is health friendly so far our tired minds and physique are concerned. The urge to unwind and relieve stress cannot be overlooked, and therefore rural areas are the ideal rejuvenating places for those who have “long been in city pent”.
Growing trends of rural tourism – Result of global economic turbulence:
The prevailing global economic turbulence with severe financial insecurity gripping everybody’s mind and the rising fuel prices have forced the die hardtravelers to look for cheaper options of holidaying whether it is spending a weekend or a vacation. People are opting for countryside vacations in order to spend a few days amidst the natural serenity. Government is also coming up with schemes to arrange for super modern accommodations equipped with top grade facilities suitable for everybody’s pocket diverting an appreciable number of tourists towards rural tourism.
Rural tourism enhances the livelihood of farmers:
Farmers are also offered loans for the betterment of infrastructure so as to attract more tourists towards rural tourism. Many farmers have converted their age old barns into luxurious cottages and resorts. Farm owners are also creating specially decorated home stays within their residential premises giving a perfect feeling of homeliness to the hosts. Displaying the local handicrafts or special food items to the tourists also provides a handsome income.
Encourages organic farming:
Health-conscious city dwellers are now looking for organic products; therefore organic farming forms an integral part of rural tourism. Spending few days in a state-of-the-art farmhouse surrounded by plush green organic farms is the best way to relax a tiring soul and body. Hosts enjoy the unique taste of farm fresh fruits and vegetables devoid of harmful pesticides.
Boosting economy through rural tourism:
Rural tourism provides one of the feasible means to boost a country’s economy, and all the developing and developed nations are paying due attention to this. With higher inflow of tourists in the country sides, many infrastructure development projects have been undertaken which has led to considerable employment generation. Ancillary industries are also coming up along with the growth of rural tourism boosting the cottage industries as well.
Best practices to be implemented in rural tourism
Although rural tourism has a huge potential in forming an integral part of the tourism industry in the developed and developing countries, there are certain practices that need to be implemented and followed strictly to maintain the sustainability of this particular domain of tourism. Failure to implement the best practices will only result in huge capital loss with zero returns. Countries like US, Australia and UK where rural tourism has been very popular drawing travelers from remote corners, strictly adhere to the best practices, which has been the benchmark for other countries to follow.
Chalk out a fool proof plan:
Selecting the right rural spots with a high market potential of developing into attractive destinations is the most vital step in setting up a sustainable rural tourism. A thorough research and data collection of the particular rural settlements involving rural officials, students and scholars of sociology and economic advisors are necessary to chalk out a full proof plan of developing a rural spot into tourism destination. This will help in proper budgetary allocation of funds and hiring man power in an optimized manner enabling setting up of a cost effective rural tourism business.
Proper financial support by the government and private owners:
Implementation of rural tourism involves a huge capital investment, which is bound to give handsome returns on a long term basis. Total funding of rural tourism may not be possible for the government. Therefore, the need for active financial support from the local cash rich farm owners is necessary. Educating the farm owners providing the right information of rural tourism benefits is important to drive in more investment. Many farm owners are ready to generate an alternative source of income through proper utilization of their farms.
Training handpicked persons and their proper deployment:
An efficient running of farm based bed and breakfast business along with value added agri-tourism demands a high level of professionalism. Training handpicked persons preferably the youths about different aspects of hospitality and tourism is very important to operate rural tourism. The responsibility of dealing with different types of guests and caring for their basic comforts should be shouldered by well trained hospitality staffs leaving no room for complaints. Regular workshops for managers and farmers are important to keep them abreast of latest developments of tourism industry.
Creating a well coordinated marketing network with the farm owners and marketing agencies:
Marketing plays an important role in promoting a rural tourist destination. Setting up a well coordinated network with the rural farm owners and marketing agencies play a pivotal role in highlighting a rural area worth visiting. Reaching out to the customers of varied tastes with attractive packages through well designed websites and electronic media attracts more attention. Innovative agri-tours blended with exclusive features can be marketed extensively as tourists always look for something new and exclusive.
Constant monitoring of the basic infrastructure and other essential amenities:
Infrastructure development and provision of upgraded basic amenities is the backbone of rural tourism, which needs constant supervision by specially trained officials and managers. Compromising with these factors will lead to poor business. Apart from monitoring the existing system, it will be the duty of these officials to come out with upgraded plans to implement better practices in rural tourism. Maintaining the freshness and cleanliness of the rural area should always be the topmost priority.
Activities while on rural tourism
With lush green landscapes presenting stunning features along with bright climatic conditions, rural tourism has lots to offer. Frankly speaking, no other tourism destination can offer such exciting outdoor activities than the rural destinations where the tourists have many options to choose from. Holidaying in a rural destination does not solely mean lazing indoors as nature with its bountiful attractions will compel you to indulge in various outdoor activities.
Undertaking long strolls amidst nature is always rejuvenating. Country sides offer a pollution free environment with oxygen rich air. .The lush greenery and the woods adorned with green foliage pump fresh oxygen into the atmosphere infusing a new life. Early morning walks along urban roadsides is certainly no match against a brisk rural stride.
This recreational activity can be carried out peacefully only in a rural setting without any disturbance. The fresh catch from the ponds satisfies the gastronomical desire of the urban tourist apart from the mental and physical pleasure. A nominal fee in exchange would give a financial support to the rural folk. The aquatic life gets recycled, the fish grow and get caught to be served at the table, and the wonderful thing is it all happens with a flow of money from the urban tourist to enrich the financial base of the rural folk.
This is a novel way of learning the tricks of farming and also exploring possibilities that lay latent. The potentials of alternate farming can be tapped and it would be a source of acquiring useful knowledge by the combined team of urban and rural folk.
Hiking along rural highlands is immensely beneficial for the physical and mental well being. Carry your hiking accessories and hire a guide. Help from the guide makes the adventure more feasible that takes a finite shape.
Trailing along woods and forests is a breath taking experience. Hire a guide who can steer you forward through the green, pollution free setting directed at immense physical and mental pleasure. Spot of color radiated by bush flowers, the flash of hovering butterflies and concerted bird songs conjure up a wonderful environment bringing in perpetual physical and mental bliss.
Boating brings in tons of mental and physical goodness to the urban tourist in exchange for a flow of money to the boat owner in the form of a riding fee. Exploring the flora and fauna of the water bodies through boating can be very exciting. It is advisable to have the owner in your hired boat so that he can serve you as a boating guide and may help you in case any distress befalls.
Swimming is a great recreational activity no doubt, but do check the depth and quality of water before exposing your skin directly to the rural water bodies. Well maintained ponds and pools will be a safer choice. Potential dangers from submerged rocks, aquatic fauna and flora may pose a threat to the swimmer. If the water body is absolutely hazard free and your swimming skills are alright there cannot be a better exercise than this.
Dos and Don’ts while on rural tourism
While you are contemplating an exciting activity packed rural tourism and making necessary preparations, a thorough knowledge of customs and traditions of the particular rural destination is essential especially if you are venturing into foreign soil. You need to be aware of the mindset of the locals which will enable you to enjoy a trouble free vacation. Rural people are generally conservative in nature being far away from the light of modernization and may be averse to certain modern customs. It would be your responsibility to give special attention to these issues while on a rural trip with family and friends.
What to do while on rural tourism:
- Learn few words like “thank you”, “welcome”, “how are you” and some common words of praises in the local dialect. Internet will be your best guide in this respect. Encourage your kids to learn these words. This will help to develop a good rapport with the local villagers.
- Hire a guide if you are going for a rural trip on a foreign location. He will guide you about the local customs and traditions of that particular place.
- Always greet local people with a hearty smile. Never show a causal approach.
- Wear a sober attitude while interacting with local people.
- If you are attending any community lunch, dinner or festival wear the right type of attire fitting for the occasion.
- Show respect to the aged and community leaders. These are highly valued in some rural places, and you can easily win the hearts of foreigners.
- Take enough precautions while going out for nature trails and hiking. Try to take at least one local people as a guide if you plan for a long distance hiking and trekking.
- Know about the safety factors if you plan to venture at night.
- Learn the rules of tipping the room service or attendants. Some may prefer tips while some may not.
- Be polite while ordering room service and other attendants. They may be uneducated and take time to follow your instructions. Be patient while explaining them your necessities.
What not to do while on rural tourism:
- Do not be too adventurous and break the rules of that area. It may be risky for your life.
- Do not consume water from any unknown source. Check the source and cleanliness of the drinking water before consuming.
- Check whether hard drinks are allowed or not before ordering a peg.
- Do not offer to handshake with the local people especially women. Villagers unaccustomed with this gesture may feel uncomfortable.
- Some religious beliefs and customs of a particular rural area may appear weird to you. Do not pass any unwelcome comments.
- Avoid wearing figure hugging or revealing outfits. Never ridicule the local and traditional attire of the villagers even if they seem awkward to you.
- Never intrude into any farms or pluck any product without suitable permission. Prevent your kids also from plucking and tearing of flowers and other farm products.
- Never show your aggression or vent out fury if certain things go against your plan. Keep your cool and seek local cooperation in a friendly manner which will no doubt solve your problem.
Which countries are promoting rural tourism?
The potential of rural tourism is best utilized in countries enriched with natural picturesque landscapes with a standard rural population in order to support the basic infrastructure essential for this mode of tourism. Rural tourism is being promoted globally irrespective of the economic status of the nations. Tapping the rural tourism market through proper planning and management generates an alternate and steady income essential for the growth and sustainability of the remotely located villagers, ultimately contributing to the economic growth of the country. Promoting rural tourism demands a huge initial capital investment for the related infrastructure development which is not a problem for the developed nations, but for the developing and under developed countries fund crunch is a serious hindrance for promoting rural tourism.
Rural tourism has seen a tremendous growth in the major developed nations with US going for special niche tourism like wine tourism, agri-tourism and eco-tourism promoting harvesting festivals through rural tourism. As per the reports published by Federal Reserve Board in Kansas, tourism industry generates about 3.6% of total employment in US. Rural areas, well known for a particular agri- product or farming are now-a-days being developed into sites of attraction through wide spread marketing of wine tourism and harvest festivals drawing tourists from different parts of the globe.
European Union countries
Rural tourism has also seen a marked development in European Union countries like France, Great Britain and Italy as more Europeans are opting for countryside vacations participating in various farming activities. France has a rich heritage of rural tourism dating back in the early fifties of the 20th century. Leisure is not the sole purpose as educated tourists are more inclined towards intellectual enrichment and knowledge gathering. UK government rolling out specific “Green Measures” and “green deals” every year in order to reach a target of reducing carbon footprints in the coming few decades is also encouraging rural tourism packed with eco-friendly measures ideal for rural areas.
Asia -Japan and Korea
Rural tourism in Japan and Korea offers relaxing tourism packages providing accommodations and meals to the visitors in the inbuilt inns, farm houses, home stays and cottages within their farms, allowing them to watch and participate in different farming activities throughout the year. Rural tourism in Malaysia presents a sort of adventure tourism and nature trails with specific rural areas housing rare species of flora and fauna posing attraction to a large group of nature lovers.
Rural tourism in developing nations like India, South Africa, Brazil and Indonesia is widely practiced in plantation areas like tea, coffee, rubber and spice gardens where tourists can stay in special accommodations with utmost comfort and engage themselves in various farming activities like sowing, rearing, plucking and grinding of these highly demanded crops, exported to different corners of the globe. South Africa is fast making its position in the world tourism market exhibiting rural tourism through ostrich farming in Southern Cape, and establishing the popular Western Cape Wine route housing about 300 wine farms providing all sorts of activities of wine tourism to the travelers.
Underdeveloped nations have a huge scope of developing a sustainable rural tourism, but lack of funds and consensus are often the major stumbling blocks in the path of progress.