Rural Tourism and its Benefits

The tourism industry the world over is expanding exponentially due to the massive increase in purchasing power as well as the development of cheaper and faster modes of travel. As is evident, more and more people across the world are now travelling to different parts of the world not only for leisure but also to exploring new things and to experience different cultures, traditions, and cuisine. People nowadays are travelling not only to first world countries but also to third world countries. This indicates a great shift in ideas and beliefs within the tourism industry.

The usual perception regarding a tourist or a traveller is that he or she is indulging in self-gratification, a leisure activity or pursuing his or her interests. However, one can also contribute to the development of the region while pursuing one’s interest in travelling. And it seemed to me a really great way to become a responsible traveller or tourist.

The kind of travel, where the traveller is prepared to go to greater distances and to unknown places to experience unique traditions and cultures is referred to as “experiential travel”. A particular form of such experiential travel not only enriches the experiences of the traveller but also results in the development of the region he or she travels to.

Rural tourism is such a form of experiential travel, where the traveller, while fulfilling his or her wishes and need for unique experiences as well as leisure, also gives something back to the host community of the village or rural area where he or she has travelled to. This provides the traveller with an opportunity to become a responsible traveller who starts to have a visible stake in the development of the region.

Rural tourism essentially means any form of tourism that showcases the rural life, art, culture as well as heritage at some rural location. Rural tourism can comprise agricultural tourism, cultural tourism, nature tourism, eco-tourism or adventure tourism. It is essentially an activity that takes place in the countryside.

There are various reasons why rural tourism is gaining in popularity. Villages are usually repositories of a country’s culture and tradition. One can find practitioners of unique traditional arts and crafts in their most original forms only in villages. Moreover, the slow pace of life in a village, away from the hustle and bustle of city life, can rejuvenate one to a great extent. A tourist who travels to a rural location gets to experience rural life by taking part in daily activities of the village. By so doing, the tourist gets to know the lifestyle of the village at much closer quarters.

However, this is just one side of the coin. Rural tourism benefits the host community tremendously. It is well known that rural economies are usually agrarian and thus most people engage in farming. In most cases, the incomes of village people are not as high as in cities. Moreover, there are not enough jobs in villages to fulfill the basic needs of the village people. This leads to young men and women migrating to cities in search of better opportunities. One huge disadvantage of such migration is that traditional arts and crafts are facing a slow death. Moreover, these village people who migrate to cities are forced to live in poor conditions in those cities. Such rural to urban migration, however, leads to a multiplicity of problems.

Rural tourism benefits the local rural community as it supplements their income, which otherwise is usually dependent either on agriculture or low skill jobs. An increased number of tourists visiting the countryside would lead to higher levels of trade among the people and thus the income level of the people would eventually be boosted. Rural tourism, in fact, is a great way to generate employment among the village youth. Moreover, this would mean that practitioners of traditional arts and crafts need not necessarily migrate to cities but can continue their profession as they can offer their work to tourists.

Another important benefit of rural tourism is that village people, through their interaction with tourists, get to expand their knowledge and horizons. Such interaction and exchange of ideas between tourists and villagers lead to increased interest in education, technology as well as preventive health care amongst the villagers. This is important as villagers are nevertheless involved in superstitious and regressive practices and customs.

Moreover, an increasing number of tourists visiting rural villages would lead to an improvement in the connectivity of the villages to cities and towns by means of better roads and increased public transport facilities.

However, as usual, everything has a flip side to it. There are negative impacts of rural tourism as well. Tourism usually leads to the development of infrastructure which finally ends up in an urbanisation of the countryside, ruining the natural beauty and wilderness of rural areas. Moreover, there might also be exploitation of natural resources due to the influx of tourists to rural areas.

Irrespective of the few negative impacts, which can to some extent be controlled, rural tourism is indeed a great innovation as it a win-win situation for both the tourist and the host communities. It can be a gratifying experience for the traveller who thus contributes to the development of the local people in the true sense of the term.

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