Changes in Rural Tourism: What's New?

Changes in Rural Tourism: What's New?

Daniel Avram (The Bucharest University of Economic Studies, Romania)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1423-8.ch010
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This chapter addresses the main trends of rural tourism and focuses on the development of this niche in Romania, one of the countries in Central and Eastern Europe that has a real potential to become a reference destination internationally. The analysis is based on the breakdown of statistical indicators and changes in the demand structure to assess the evolution of rural tourism activity objectively. Thus, elements such as the evolution of accommodation structures in rural areas, the number of overnight stays by agro-tourists, as well as changes in the profile of tourists that can influence the activity of rural tourism have been included. Also, there are examples of rural destinations that have made their mark on Romania as providers of rural tourism services that have echoes at the international level.
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Romania is one of the countries that has remarkable rural potential so rural tourism can become a country brand. The natural landscapes, the ozone air, the folk architecture, along with centuries-old customs and the gastronomy are just a few of the elements that make up the Romanian village. The evolution of rural tourism in the last two decades has been remarkable, both in terms of supply and demand, and the non-reimbursable funding from rural destinations has contributed to the development of this niche. This chapter aims to be an objective analysis of the image of Romanian rural tourism, pointing out elements of differentiation of the Romanian village, which can turn it into a coherent and sustainable tourist product. It also emphasises the need to adapt tourist products to changes in the demand structure, both demographically and in terms of tourist motivation. This chapter points out what is new in the structure of demand and what are the main characteristics of the tourists that stakeholders have to take into account in carrying out the activities specific to this niche.

Rural tourism represents one of the main alternatives for farmers to earn income without relying exclusively on agriculture. For sustainable development in this sector, the stakeholders should take into account the protection of the environment, resource efficiency and enhance the competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises.

Romania is one of the main European destinations for rural tourism in terms of resources and potential and it could easily become an important reference point in the field if its tourism offer would include innovative aspects. Even though rural tourism is known as a domain that depends on old traditions to attract visitors, this is not enough anymore. In this context, innovation in this field would represent the competitive advantage that Romania needs to reduce the gap between its real indicators in tourism and its potential.

Romania has an impressive rural heritage that could be successfully included in an attractive tourism product at international level (Gavrilă-Paven, 2015). Romanian village has always been an attraction for the tourist flows, and there have been attempts to organize tourism activity from 1967 to 1968. The Romanian example also represented a good example that a close relationship between agriculture, food and tourism can become the key to long-term development, profitable both for the stakeholders involved in this field and for the local community. However, the lack of continuity at the legislative level and the low interest from the authorities have delayed the development of a specific infrastructure to support this niche. Thus, we cannot speak about a coherent tourism product in rural areas until 1990 (Nistoreanu, 2006).

Together with the delay in the development of a coherent product in rural tourism, it is also essential to specify that the cultural heritage from rural areas has not been capitalized by modern means (Fanea-Ivanovici, 2018), such as digital restoration or online dissemination through 3D models (Neamtu et al., 2018). This aspect diminished the competitiveness of rural tourism products so far and limited the possibility of generating additional revenues to local communities (Ciurea & Filip, 2016). In addition, the development of the Romanian tourist activity in the rural area in the last 30 years did not aim to exploit the resources taking into account the profile of the tourists and the trends generated by the technological progress. Thus, at this moment, tourism products promoted in Romania are considered incomplete and less competitive in the international market.

The importance of rural tourism for the Romanian economy is also recognised in its national tourism strategies also. Romania is one of the Central and Eastern European countries for which the development of rural tourism is a viable option for sustainable economic development (OECD, 2018a). In regard to support of this niche, associations have been developed over the past three decades to support rural tourism in Romania, such as: The Romanian Villages Association (created in 1988-1989), The Romanian Mountain Development Federation (1990), The National Rural, Ecologic and Cultural Tourism Association from Romania (1994), The Romanian Agritourism Agency (1995) and The Configuration and Innovation Centre for Carpathian Development – CEFIDEC (1994), ANTREC (2007) (Bogan, 2012).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Viscri: One of the most iconic rural tourism destinations from Romania, located in Transylvania region.

Agritourism Pension: Type of accommodation specific to rural tourism.

Rural Funding: Funds that are allocated to develop rural communities.

NUTS: Codes of territorial units used for statistical reasons.

Rural Tourism: The form of tourism that takes place in rural areas.

Senior Tourists: Older people over the age of 65 who are no longer working and who travel for different reasons.

Rural Resources: Natural and anthropic resources that include both tangible and intangible heritage located in rural areas.

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