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.
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.
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.