In actuality, the development of rural or green tourism is one of the mainstream trends in the development of the contemporary tourism industry. The rural or green tourism challenges the position of the mass tourism as the mainstream trend in the development of the modern tourism industry. At the same time, companies operating in the rural tourism industry face the problem of the strong competition that forces companies to increase the demand for their services. In this regard, companies operating in the rural tourism attempt to attract tourists offering them new destinations, especially in remote areas and developing countries, which are particularly interesting for customers, especially from the US, the EU and other well-developed countries. In such a context, it is important to place emphasis on the fact that the overall success of rural tourism depends on the growth of the demand in the market. Therefore, companies operating in the industry have to maintain the interest of customers to their product offering new, interesting destinations or new services in traditional destinations of rural tourism.
In actuality, the emergence of rural tourism is closely intertwined with the growing interest of customers in non-western culture and different lifestyle, which they find in rural areas. At the same time, the emergence of rural tourism is encouraged by local authorities of different countries because they encourage the development of rural tourism that stimulates the development of local economies. The growing interest of customers to rural tourism increases the interest of investors to develop this business. However, today, the mass tourism still dominates in the tourism industry because large companies offering tourism and hospitality services hold a strong position in the market and offer customers all the benefits of conventional tourism. In such a context, rural tourism faces the problem of the creation of comfortable conditions for customers, while companies operating in the mass tourism segment of the market provide customers with a broad range of services and the high level of comfort. In contrast, companies offering customers to enjoy rural tourism create conditions different from companies operating in the mass tourism but the level of comfort is different because the priority of companies operating in rural tourism is the maintenance of authentic environment that naturally implies the conditions close to the authentic conditions, which rural population lives in. Therefore, customers using rural tourism should come prepared to different environment and conditions, where they should stay and live, if they choose rural tourism. In such a situation, companies operating in rural tourism attempt to create comfortable conditions for customers introducing advanced elements, such as internet connection, and other services customers are accustomed to, into the authentic environment. However, in such a situation, customers derive from the original, authentic rural tourism to meet needs of customers.
On the other hand, along with the relatively high profitability of mass tourism due to the large number of tourists, it is necessary to remember about certain risks that accompany this type of tourism. What is meant here is the necessity of the permanent and stable flow of tourists to the tourism destinations. In this respect, it is possible to estimate that this problem can be solved if the sustainable development of tourism industry continues and there are no crisis in the industry. However, even the stable development cannot fully prevent mass tourism from crisis. For instance, it is possible to refer to the experience of South-Eastern Asia which was practically deserted after the notorious tsunami that had occurred recently in the area. In the result of this natural disaster, South-Eastern Asia transformed from one of the most desirably tourism destinations into the territory of the highest risk where tourists were simply afraid to visit. Moreover, many tourists and insurance companies had to pay huge compensation to those tourists that affected by the natural disaster that deteriorated the position of these companies in the market. In this regard, the large of tourists was a serious problem and disadvantage rather than a merit because it actually increased substantially the general volume of pay-offs.
It proves beyond a doubt that rural tourism proves to be more flexible in this respect and it is less susceptible to the negative impact to natural disasters or terror attacks, for instance. It should be pointed out that rural tourism is traditionally related to a particular event or area and it is not so oriented on the large number of customer but rather on the particular target group of customers which could be attracted by companies operating in tourism industry. Basically, the flexibility of rural tourism may be achieved due to the less dependence of this type of tourism on the constant and large flow of tourist. Instead, it is basically oriented on some specific group of customer that is interested in some specific even or area.
For instance, it is possible to speak about ecotourism. In fact, it is a relatively new trend and it does not imply the attraction of a large number of customers and there are objective reasons for such a situation. In fact, often local facilities cannot afford the presence of a large number of customers at a time. Naturally, this may be viewed as a drawback, but, on the other hand, it is necessary to point out that this does not need significant investments in the development of the local infrastructure and building of special hotels, restaurants, and development of the recreation area at large. In the case of ecotourism, as a part of rural tourism, the closer the tourism destination is to its original, natural state the better and the more attracting the destination will be for tourists.
Moreover, it should be said that rural tourism is really more flexible because along with ecotourism rural tourism also includes such directions in the development of tourism as sport-oriented activities, which may attract a large a number of customers. For instance, the organization the football World Cup or the Olympic Games may be viewed as one of the most profitable events for the rural tourism. In fact, rural tourism uses such events as the attraction to customers and the recent Olympic Games or the football World Cup in Germany proved to be profitable. For instance, specialists estimate that the organization of the football World Cup in Germany brought milliards of investments into the national economy, while the number of foreign tourists was the highest compared to all the other World Cups in the past (Novelli et al. 2005, 227). This means that rural tourism may very profitable because it can also attract mass audience.
However, it is naturally possible to argue that this type of tourism attracts the large number of tourists for a very limited period of time, for instance, for the period of the competitions and after that the interests of tourists to tourism destination rapidly declines. In such a situation, companies working in rural tourism should simply redirect their attention to another sport event or just attempt to develop ecotourism, or any other type of niche tourism in the area after the sports event, which has attracted a large of tourists. In this respect, it should be said that the sports event may be viewed as a kind of promotional campaign used tourist companies and local government to attract the attention of tourists to the specific destination and after that it is just necessary to organize special tours, develop ecotourism for instance and continue develop tourism in this area. However, it is obvious that it is impossible to count for the mass flow of tourists similar to that which was stimulated by the sports event.
In such a way, speaking about the economic impact of rural and mass tourism in the situation of the sustainable development of tourism, it is necessary to underline that the mass tourism may be viewed as more economically profitable because it is focused on the large and constant flow of tourists but such a dependence makes mass tourism extremely vulnerable to crisis provoked by some natural disasters or any other external threats, such as terror attacks. In such a situation, the negative impact of such crisis on mass tourism will be more serious than on rural tourism. The latter is more flexible and does not need a constant flow of a large number of tourists, instead, it is more mobile since it needs either the large number of tourists but for a short period of time, or small number of customer who could visit destination but it does not significant investments into the development of the local infrastructure and recreation area that leads to the situation that lower revenues may be more profitable because of the lower costs of this type of rural tourism, while in case of the short-term attraction of the large number of tourists for some specific event, the higher costs will bring higher profits compared to mass tourism.
Along with a significant economic effect, tourism may produce a profound socio-cultural impact on tourism destinations. In this respects, the effects of rural and mass tourism may vary dramatically. Basically, mass tourism implies that the large number of tourists visits the tourism destination and, as a rule, the tourists originate from different countries or, at least, from other parts of the country since the local population is not a consumer of tourist services but rather a supplier. In such a situation, the large number of tourists from different parts of the world may be viewed as a serious threat to the local culture and lifestyle. It is not a secret that many companies operating in hotel industry, for instance, tend to develop certain standards of services which they provide for their customer. This leads to the situation when customers feel comfortable at any part of the world staying at the hotel of a particular company because of this standardization. However, standardization leads to the adaptation of the personnel and local peculiarities to the international standards. This means that tourists cannot come into contact with the original local culture. Instead, it is rather an adapted version of the local culture tourists can observe. In contrast, rural tourism often implies the deepening of tourists into the local culture. For instance, rural implies that tourists visit areas which were not available to them in the past because this kind of rural tourism targets at showing tourists the real life or traditional life of the local community in its original form. In contrast to mass tourism, the local population should not adapt to the needs of foreign tourist, instead they should demonstrate their original and unique culture that is the main attraction to tourists (Edgell 2006, p.78).
In such a way, it is possible to speak about a serious disadvantage of mass tourism compared to rural tourism because the former actually stimulates the assimilation of the local population and the local culture and its integration to the new global culture. Mass tourism increases the number of contacts of the local population with representatives of other cultures and, therefore, they cannot fail to be affected by them. In contrast, rural tourism does not produce such a mass impact on the local culture because the number of tourists is substantially low and their impact on the local community is not as durable as in the case of mass tourism. To put it more precisely, ecotourism, for instance, does not count for a large of tourists and even sports events attracting masses of tourists do not produce a profound impact on the local community because they last for a short period of time and after the contacts with other cultures decreases along with the decrease of the flow of tourists.
On the other hand, it is possible to argue that rural tourism penetrates into the heart of the local culture and it inevitably effects the local community even though its socio-cultural impact is not so obvious in short-run, while in the long-run, the permanent visits even of small groups of tourists naturally affect the local culture and may change the lifestyle of the local community (Morrison 2002, p.183). In this respect, it is possible to refer to the example of some African or Australian aboriginal communities, which have changed their lifestyle under the impact of their contacts with Western civilization but they preserved their traditions as an attraction to tourists.
On analyzing the environmental impact of rural and mass tourism, it is possible to estimate that rural tourism apparently is an advantageous position compared to mass tourism. In this respect, it should be sad that rural tourism is traditionally oriented on the preservation of the local nature, traditions, lifestyle since the uniqueness of tourism destinations is the major component of the success of rural tourism. It is obvious that companies operating in tourists industry as well as local governments are not interested into the destruction of the local environment or even any significant changes in the local environment because it is the major value asset, the basis on which the entire tourism industry is developing. Moreover, often the goal of rural tourism is the preservation and acquaintance of tourists with the wild nature. For instance, ecotourism targets at the sustainable development of tourism destinations and the local nature and uniqueness of the local environment attract tourists and without it ecotourism would fail.
In contrast, mass tourism primarily targets at the customer satisfaction and tourist companies do not really care about the sustainable development of the local area because their major goals it attract masses of customers and gain maximum profits. In fact, it is basically the infrastructure, modern facilities and entertaining potential of tourism destination that is the primary concern of mass tourism. Consequently, the environment turns to be secondary for mass tourism. Naturally, tourist companies attempt to maintain the local environment in a normal state in order to keep customers satisfied but it is not a secret that the development of mass tourism leads to the destruction of the local environment even at the stage of the construction of hotels, development of infrastructure, and the creation of recreation area.
Consequently, rural tourism is consistently more environmentally friendly than mass tourism. Nevertheless, companies operating in rural tourism still need to stimulate the demand for their services because customers are not always willing to move far from traditional resort areas and live in rural areas with uncertain comfort and conditions of living. At this point, it is worth mentioning the fact that the recent global financial crisis has affected consistently the development of rural tourism. In fact, rural tourism is quite expensive because it may need substantial investments in the development of infrastructure and transportation of tourists along with the creation of comfortable conditions, where customers could feel being at ease. The high costs companies spend on the maintenance of facilities and business at large naturally affect the price of their services. However, customers cannot afford paying the high price for rural tourism, especially under the impact of rural tourism. In this regard, many customers just are not willing to pay more because they do not understand or appreciate all the benefits of rural tourism compared to the mass tourism.
In such a situation, companies operating in rural tourism need to stimulate the demand for their services. At this point, companies use different strategy. One of the most efficient strategies of the promotion of rural tourism is the emphasis on environmental benefits of rural tourism and offering customers totally new and different impressions compared to mass tourism. As it has been already mentioned above, rural tourism is environment friendly. Therefore, customers using rural tourism contribute to the sustainable development and environment protection. Taking into consideration the fact that the public grows more and more concerned about environmental issues, the environment friendly background of rural tourism may contribute to a consistent growth of its popularity among tourists, especially from well-developed countries.
In addition, it is worth mentioning the fact that the overwhelming majority of the population of well-developed countries lives in urban areas, whereas the rural population comprises just a few percents of the total population of well-developed countries. Consequently, the life in rural areas is the totally new experience for tourists from well-developed countries. They had little, if any, experience of living in rural areas and rural tourism offer them ample opportunities to benefit from visiting rural areas, where tourists can get acquainted with the life of the rural population, the lifestyle of local people, the traditions and regular activities. Moreover, many companies offer customers ample opportunities to join the local population in its regular activities. For instance, tourists may go fishing or just do some artisan work as they choose rural tourism, especially in remote areas.
At the same time, many companies operating in rural tourism attempt to cut their costs through the introduction of policies aiming at close cooperation with the local population. As a result, companies gain the support from the local communities and they can save costs employing the local population for instance. In such a way, companies decrease not only costs but also price customers have to pay for their services. Therefore, prices become more attractive for customers that naturally stimulates the demand of customers for rural tourism services. In actuality, price is one of the crucial factors that determine customers’ choices, when customers decide which tourism to choose. In fact, the development of rural tourism is closely intertwined with the growth of demand for rural tourism from the part of customers and companies operating in rural tourism encourage the growing demand.
Finally, rural tourism is definitely a new experience for customers and companies operating in rural tourism attempt to exploit the novelty of rural tourism for customers to attract them and to increase demand for rural tourism. Many companies focus on remote destinations, which are located far away from urban areas and from major routes. Such destinations attract tourists and increase the demand for rural tourism consistently because tourists expects to receive exclusive services and new impressions traveling far away from civilization and changing their traditional lifestyle for a new, rural one.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is important to place emphasis on the fact that the development of rural tourism is a highly prospective trend in the development of tourism industry. Rural tourism is different from mass tourism and this difference can make it extremely popular among tourists. The popularity of rural tourism is already high. Customers are interested in rural tourism because it is environment friendly and offers them an opportunity to uncover the totally different lifestyle compared to the one they are accustomed to. At the same time, companies operating in rural tourism attempt to stimulate the demand because many customers are still unaware of benefits of rural tourism and they are still comfort driven. In addition, costs of rural tourism are relatively high and companies offer customers services at relatively high price. Nevertheless, the company use diverse strategies mentioned above to increase the demand and to attract more tourists.
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