The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has recently released a report that defines the status of rural tourism in its member states.
In a statement issued yesterday, May 17, UNWTO emphasised that this report aims to identify significant challenges and opportunities related to tourism as a catalyst for rural development from a policy standpoint, SchengenVisaInfo.com reports.
The report further revealed that 59 per cent of all member states consider rural tourism as a priority, with an overwhelming 96 per cent of member nations anticipating a brighter future for this sector in the coming years.
The potential benefits of tourism for rural regions include new job opportunities, improved quality of life, and measures to counteract population decline. The protection and promotion of cultural heritage, along with environmental conservation, were also recognized by the member states as prime potential advantages of rural tourism.
Based on UNWTO research, among the three most important challenges related to the realisation of tourism’s potential for rural development include deficiencies in roads, ports, airports and other infrastructure that allow access to rural areas, which remain a challenge for the surveyed countries.
According to UNWTO, the challenge is that the seasonality and competitiveness of agricultural products add to rural depopulation, as they increase the instability of rural businesses, which hinders the maintenance of the population and human resources.
As the third main challenge, the authority identifies the lack of education and training, but also the development of skills in rural areas, in addition to the capacity to attract and retain the talent of the workforce.
As UNWTO explains, other issues that rural tourism faces are as follows:
- Restrictions on access to financial systems
- Limitations in the development of innovative tourism products in rural areas
- Managing the impacts of natural resource degradation
- Limitations in data handling, digitisation and knowledge management
In order for tourism to help support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), UNWTO Member States noted the potential of rural tourism to advance SDG 8 (Decent work and economic growth), SDG 1 (No poverty), SDG 11 (Sustainable cities and communities) and SDG 5 (Gender Equality).
The said report was presented during the 118th session of the UNWTO Executive Council in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, as part of the work of the Tourism Program for Rural Development of the UNWTO, which serves to develop initiatives and programs for to grow the sector, as well as to monitor it in destinations around the world.