Institute for Integrated Rural Tourism

Welcome to The Institute for Integrated Rural Tourism

The Institute for Integrated Rural Tourism works with communities and individuals to develop tourism systems in which rural people and rural life patterns form the foundation of the touristic experience.

To achieve this mission, the institute supports and guides communities, enterprise associations, individual entrepreneurs, researchers and practitioners who are working to enrich the economic fabric of rural communities through holistic and low impact economic development.

Integrated Rural Tourism honors rural life patterns, weaving together the story of natural and human communities through the visitor experience.


My new book, Integrated Rural Tourism: Weaving Low Impact Tourism Into The Economic Fabric of Rural Communities is now available.

Integrated rural tourism (IRT) combines the principles and practices of ecotourism but adds into the mix the life patterns of the rural community.

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Abele, the owner of Finca Los Abuelos in El Rincon, Honduras leads a nature walk for visitors close to his ecolodge and small organic farm where he can host small groups and individuals interested in an authentic rural village experience.

Fijian Farmer
Linking local, small-scale agriculture to the tourist experience through interpretative programs, food served in lodges, small hotels, and locally owned restaurants, and on-farm experiences is a meaninful way to tell the story of rural life and a critical element of integrated rural tourism.
Integrated Rural Tourism is:

  • Place based
  • Includes a central theme or focus
  • Combines natural ecosystems and human communities in the visitor experience.
  • Is small scale, integrating easily into the economic fabric of the community.
  • Directly links small-scale agriculture with the tourism experience.
  • Is authentic, reflecting the reality of rural life patterns which become the attraction where the ordinary for the host community becomes the extraordinary for the visitor.
  • Elders in the community provide the background for the interpretive program.
  • Education of both the visitor and the host is a cornerstone of the experience.
  • Partnerships are formed within the community between parties interested in providing a tourism experience.
  • Public, private, NGO partnerships are developed to provide support, encouragement, and training for the program participants.

Integrated Rural Tourism is a development strategy that honors rural life patterns, fosters linkages within a target area, and enriches the host/visitor relationship through direct cultural exchange.

Integrated rural tourism is by design, low investment and low impact on the human and natural community.

Rather than big investments in new attractions, facilities and services, the ordinary for the host community becomes the extraordinary for the visitor for those communities developing an integrated rural tourism product.

Hauling lumber in rural Honduras

At Finca Los Abuelos, the old family home includes the kitchen and dining area for guests. One part of the living area can be used as a meeting space for seminars. All the while, the visitor is surrounded by a working farm where much of the food served is grown on the farm. In the background, the guest learns how important the outlying natural area is to the daily life and wellbeing of the villagers.
The Institute For Integrated Rural Tourism is a Vermont-based organization which values rural life ways. Our mission is to encourage direct exchanges between urban and rural peoples through tourism that highlights rural life patterns.

We hope you will explore this website and begin to contribute to the mission of the Institute by taking advantage of all we have to offer. Become an associate, visit a destination, host a workshop on integrated rural tourism, read books from our recommended reading list, propose and undertake valuable research projects, and become a leader in the integrated rural tourism movement.  

Thank you for your interest. We look forward to your participation.

Todd Comen
Managing Director

The Institute For Integrated Rural Tourism Todd Comen, Managing Director (802) 635-1209