What Is Rural Tourism?

K. Kinsella

Rural tourism involves travelers visiting destinations that are away from major metropolitan areas and heavily developed tourist resorts and locations. In many instances, rural tourism involves travelers visiting small communities and experiencing elements of traditional life in those communities. Rural tourism can overlap with ecotourism, which involves travelers embarking on environmentally friendly tours to lakes, forests, jungles and other natural environments that have not yet been developed for large scale commercial tourism.

Rural tourism might focus on historical sites in smaller communities.
Rural tourism might focus on historical sites in smaller communities.

Trips to rural areas can last for a few hours, for several days or even for a number of months. Some travel firms arrange guided tours to these areas but in many instances, travelers are responsible for creating their own schedules once they reach their destination. Many rural areas lack the kinds of amenities that are found in major cities such as hotels and luxury resorts. Consequently, rural tourists are often housed in farmhouses, campsites, cottages and other types of inexpensive or traditional housing. Some travel firms even arrange tours on which the participants stay with local families for the duration of the tour.

Vineyard tours can be a form of rural tourism.
Vineyard tours can be a form of rural tourism.

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Many remote and rural areas are economically deprived due to a lack of industry and infrastructure. Government entities in such places often promote rural tourism so that visitors are attracted to the area. The money that tourists spend boosts the local economy and in the long-term, this can create new jobs. Farmers who normally generate income by selling livestock and crops can often supplement their income by turning farmhouses in bed and breakfast locations or by creating farmland based attractions such as corn mazes, hayrides or vineyard tours. Small businesses that traditionally manufacture items such as baskets, knitted clothing and glassware for the local community can market those same goods to tourists and generate additional revenue.

Some areas may see a spike in rural tourism during the autumn as interest grows in fall foliage.
Some areas may see a spike in rural tourism during the autumn as interest grows in fall foliage.

Firms and government agencies that promote rural tourism usually emphasize the point that rural communities have not been overly commercialized and many travelers enjoy visiting these regions so that they can visit traditional bars and restaurants rather than establishments that are owned by major corporations. Consequently, many rural communities have imposed laws that require business owners to maintain aged structures and use buildings for certain purposes. Such rules are designed to ensure that rural communities do not lose the charm that distinguishes these places from urban areas.

Farmers may generate income by letting visitors pick their own fruits or vegetables.
Farmers may generate income by letting visitors pick their own fruits or vegetables.

Many travelers visit rural areas in order to enjoy the natural environment. To ensure that natural habitats are not disrupted by tourists, many rural communities have laws in place that require travel operators to implement recycling policies and to minimize pollution. In coastal areas, certain types of watercraft are often prohibited if those boats pose a threat to the marine life that attracts the tourists. Rules in other areas, limit tourist numbers so that visiting travelers do not frighten or disrupt the animals that live in the region.

Rural tourism might focus on livestock farms.
Rural tourism might focus on livestock farms.
Rural tourism might look at cultural traditions in areas not often visited by tourists.
Rural tourism might look at cultural traditions in areas not often visited by tourists.
Scenic hiking destinations might attract tourists to a rural area.
Scenic hiking destinations might attract tourists to a rural area.

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