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Institute for Integrated Rural Tourism
Book

INTEGRATED RURAL TOURISM

WEAVING LOW IMPACT TOURISM INTO THE ECONOMIC FABRIC OF RURAL COMMUNITIES


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CONTENTS

Preface RURAL TOURISM: A SOCIOECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY 5
Introduction INTEGRATED RURAL TOURISM DEFINED 7
Module 1 COMING TO TERMS WITH THE DEMONS OF TOURISM 18
Module 2 READINESS ASSESSMENT 29
Module 3 PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT 39
Module 4 MARKETING 69
Module 5 LODGING DESIGN AND FACILITIES MANAGEMENT 92
Module 6 MENU DEVELOPMENT, FOOD SAFETY,AND SANITATION 106
Module 7 VALUING THE VISITOR EXPERIENCE 116
Module 8 MANAGING THE VISITOR EXPERIENCE 122
Module 9 COMMUNICATION AND VISITOR SATISFACTION 134
Module 10 ENTERPRISE ASSOCIATIONS AND SOCIOECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT 142

Many rural communities in developing areas around the world face the challenge of finding adequate income generating activities. Young people in particular leave rural areas for lack of opportunities. Traditional agricultural-based rural economies do not offer sufficient employment opportunities. Many in the development community turn to rural tourism as one solution to alleviate poverty, slow the exodus of youth, and invigorate small farms in declining rural areas. In many areas around the developing world people in rural communities are working with NGOs with explicit socioeconomic objectives of poverty alleviation and rural development. Lessons from rural development projects worldwide suggest that what is needed is an integrated approach to economic development. Balancing the principles of ecotourism with tourism in rural villages as the spark for economic activity, social empowerment, and appreciation for traditional cultural practices is the subject of this book.

Integrated rural tourism (IRT) combines the principles and practices of ecotourism but adds into the mix the life patterns of the rural community. This is not a new approach to socioeconomic development in rural areas, but up until now has been used in limited circumstances. IRT forms a complex web that features agriculture and rural life patterns as the foundation of the tourist experience. In its ideal form, this tourism model can play a prominent role in encouraging economic prosperity at a local and regional level because it encourages and supports the links within a diversified local economy. It is, by its very nature, low impact both on natural areas and on the human community. This integrated approach is emerging over time as our awareness of the inseparability of human life and the preservation of earth's biodiversity increases. IRT is essentially about creating a more sustainable and holistic tourist experience with human communities as the focal point. What people remember most on their trips are the people they meet. Typically on nature-based tours, the tourists remember the other people in their tour group. However, if the visitors spent time in a rural community, they would remember the smiles of the people they met, the food they ate, and the songs they sang.

In this how-to book, I present a template for successfully weaving tourism into a rural economy based on the key elements of IRT. I outline a decision- making model and operational strategy based on my first-hand experience over the past twenty years developing tourism products, managing tourism enterprises, and researching tourism development. It is my hope that this practical book will assist rural entrepreneurs, development agencies, small-scale farmers, and rural community members around the world from Vermont to Honduras , Estonia to Fiji , Canada to Brazil in developing business strategies that bring economic prosperity to their communities and regions.

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