Regional and Rural Tourism

There is some overlap between the definitions of regional and rural tourism. Rural tourism always takes place in rural (country) areas. The activities and attractions are based around rural activities such as farm-stay holidays and agricultural shows, as well as natural attractions such as mountains and rivers.

Regional tourism also takes place outside major urban centres but its focus is more on the distinct character of different areas where tourists visit. It is generally broader in concept than rural tourism – it encompasses all the major activities and attractions of the region, not just rural-based ones.

A region can be determined by natural geographic features such as the Grand Canyon, by administrative boundaries such as state or country borders, or by the distinctive activities that take place in an area (for example, wine-making). A region may include major towns, possibly even cities. Regions can be any size or shape but generally speaking - the larger and more developed the country, the more regions it has.

Both government tourism authorities and those directly involved in the tourism industry have a vested interest in promoting areas as distinct ‘regions’.

Many rural areas are in a state of decline with high unemployment and declining populations, and tourism is seen to have great potential to revitalise those areas. Tourist marketing often focuses on regional produce and natural attractions such as wine or skiing. Such marketing has strong appeal for specific demographic groups, for example, Tasmania in Australia is promoted as a gourmet food region attracting middle-aged and retired tourists with discerning tastes, whilst Queenstown in New Zealand is promoted as an ‘adventure playground’ attracting young, fit, and adventurous tourists. Rocky Mountain regions in the U.S.A. and Canada are promoted as regions of great natural beauty and wilderness, attracting younger, more active tourists and those with a strong interest in the natural environment.

Promotion of even one or two regional attractions can contribute to the establishment of a profitable tourism industry in that region, injecting much-needed money into otherwise weak economies. As more tourists visit a region, more attractions and facilities are developed, creating a solid infrastructure for tourism activity that in turn makes the region more hospitable and attractive to tourists. Growth in tourism, whilst it usually carries some costs (such as increased stresses on the local environment and increased traffic), also creates jobs and brings trade for local businesses ensuring regional prosperity.