INTEGRATED RURAL TOURISM
WEAVING LOW IMPACT TOURISM INTO THE ECONOMIC FABRIC OF RURAL COMMUNITIES
||RURAL TOURISM: A SOCIOECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY 5
||INTEGRATED RURAL TOURISM DEFINED 7
||COMING TO TERMS WITH THE DEMONS OF TOURISM 18
||READINESS ASSESSMENT 29
||PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT 39
||LODGING DESIGN AND FACILITIES MANAGEMENT 92
||MENU DEVELOPMENT, FOOD SAFETY,AND SANITATION 106
||VALUING THE VISITOR EXPERIENCE 116
||MANAGING THE VISITOR EXPERIENCE 122
||COMMUNICATION AND VISITOR SATISFACTION 134
||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.