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Why Rural Tourism Is The Next Big Thing

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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 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

Rural tourism definitions

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:

  1. Agriculture, forestry, aquaculture, and fisheries.
  2. Economic and cultural activities of country-dwellers.
  3. Non-urban recreation and leisure areas or nature reserves.
  4. 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:

National Parks

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.

Rural tourism
A map of showing the locations of Britain’s national parks.

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs)

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 Interest

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.

SACs, SPAs and 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.

National and Local Nature Reserves

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 and European Geoparks

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?
This infographic was created by one of my travel and tourism work experience students.

Why is rural tourism important?

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:

  • Natural England
  • VisitBritain
  • National Trust
  • Forestry Commission
  • National Park Authorities
  • 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

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

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

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.

Forestry Commission

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.

National Park Authorities

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

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.

Benefits to wider economy through taxes

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.

Boosts local businesses

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.

Local community can use newly developed infrastructure and services

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.

Cultural exchange

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.

Revitalisation of traditions, customs and crafts

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.

Environmental protection and conservation

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:

Pressure on public services 

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.

Increased price of land and real estate

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.

Congestion and overcrowding 

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.

Inappropriate or too much development

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:

Restricting access

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.

Training schemes for local population

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

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.


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
-Environmental Conservation
-Food Diversification and Supply Chain
-Rural Crafts e.g. timber framing, thatching
-Land-based Research and Development

Community-based rural tourism

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.

Promoting traditional artefacts

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.

Improving public transport systems

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.

Traffic management schemes

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.

Conservation projects

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.


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 the paths

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.

Stone pitching

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.

Rural tourism activities

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.

Motivational reasons may include:

  • Relaxation
  • Sport
  • Culture
  • Adventure
  • Retreat
  • Novelty
  • Health
  • Education

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

  • Walking
  • Fishing
  • Hunting
  • Camping
  • Cycling

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
  • Wellness
  • Retreats
  • Team-building

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

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

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

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:

Rural tourism in Greece

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.

Rural tourism in Canada

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 in Sri Lanka

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

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.

Rural tourism: Conclusion

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.

Further reading

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