UNWTO releases new research to assess potential of rural tourism

 Thursday, May 18, 2023 


The UNWTO has released a new research to assess the state of rural tourism in its member countries and highlight the major policy obstacles and possibilities for tourism as a driver of rural development.

“Tourism and Rural Development: A Policy Perspective – Results of the UNWTO Survey on Tourism for Rural Development to Member States” is the UNWTO’s first baseline publication on tourism and rural development, involving Member States from all around the world.

The study was unveiled at the UNWTO Executive Council’s 118th session in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. It is part of the activities of the UNWTO’s Tourism for Rural Development Programme, which was formed to promote ideas and plans to increase the sector’s size and importance while also monitoring it in locations across the world.

The following are the key findings of the report:

• More than half of all Member States (59%) stated that rural tourism is a priority
• Almost all Member States (96%) foresee a better future for rural tourism in the upcoming years
• The creation of new jobs, improvement of livelihoods and fighting depopulation were the most frequently-cited opportunities offered by tourism for rural areas
• Member States also identified the conservation and promotion of cultural heritage and environmental protection as among the biggest potential benefits of rural tourism

The UNWTO research also identified three main challenges associated with realizing the potential of tourism for rural development:

• The “infrastructure gap” in rural areas. Deficiencies in roads, ports, airports and other infrastructure that allow access to rural areas remain a challenge for the surveyed countries.
• Rural depopulation. Seasonality and farming product competitiveness add to this challenge, increasing the instability of rural businesses, which prevents the retention of population and human resources.
• The lack of education and training, as well as skills development, in addition to the capacity to attract and retain workforce talent.

Other obstacles include access to financial systems, constraints in the development of novel tourist goods in rural regions, controlling the effects of natural resource deterioration, and limitations in data processing, digitization, and knowledge management.

In terms of how tourism may contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), UNWTO Member States highlighted the potential of rural tourism in furthering SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), SDG 1 (No Poverty), SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), and SDG 5 (Gender Equality).

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