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International Conference on Rural Tourism - Themes & Scope

Conference - International Conference on Rural Tourism:

Re-inventing rural tourism and the rural tourism experience - Conserving, innovating and co-creating for sustainability

 4th - 7th September 2013 

 University of Aveiro, Aveiro, Portugal


 (←  Please see the menu on the left for more information about the Conference)

      Rural tourism has attracted increasing interest from academics, politicians and practioners alike. However contested its definition, the countryside’s popularity amongst urban populations, and the socio-economic and environmental challenges faced by both rural areas and by rural tourism, are strong themes worldwide. Those challenges include the decline and change of traditionally dominant agricultural and productive functions, the potential development of the countryside as a place of hedonic consumption, all coupled with numerous management issues. The list of issues is enormous: tensions and interactions between global and local, rural and urban; man versus nature; anthropocentric versus eco-centric; production and consumption; past, present and future; conservation and progress; nostalgia, imaginary and real; the desires and expectations of a growing series of diverse stakeholders with distinct interests in the “rural space”.

Rural tourism can be analysed from geographical, sociological, cultural, economic, ecological, political, rural development, and from market and marketing perspectives, in order to identify and understand new meanings and opportunities, as well as challenges and difficulties. The countryside’s numerous realities manifest themselves in distinct territorial, economic and socio-cultural contexts and interactions all of which shape the “overall rural tourism experience” lived by all stakeholders who are involved in its co-creation. This co-creation is itself both a challenge and an opportunity to re-invent the rural tourism experience in an innovative and sustainable way. The conservation – even preservation - of the core values and attractions of most rural areas – nature, landscape, cultural heritage, local gastronomy - is certainly needed.  But, there is increasing, and global, competition amongst all types of destinations, and amongst rural destinations. There is an increasingly sophisticated and experienced (and global) tourist market.  This equation demands market and business knowledge, innovation, entrepreneurship, networks and social capital at the local and regional scale if we are to create rural tourism systems that both attract and satisfy tourists and effectively contribute to the sustainable development of rural areas.

This conference, prepared as part of a 3-years research project on the “Overall Rural Tourism Experience” (ORTE) in three Portuguese villages[i], offers an in depth discussion of the “rural tourism experience”, its manifestations, meanings, impacts and evolution. It intends to significantly contribute to current reflections on the potential and limitations of rural tourism as a development tool as well as to the identification of ways to maximize this potential in certain circumstances, through a more profound understanding of the dynamics of the “overall rural tourism experience”.

Seven main themes are suggested for guiding discussions on the rural tourism experience: 

1. Understanding the rural tourist: their motivations, perceptions, sensations, experiences, memories and imagination

2. Understanding rural residents’ experience with tourists

3. Experience design with endogenous resources (focusing on “countryside capital”) 

4. Entrepreneurship and innovation for quality rural tourism experiences

5. Marketing the rural tourism experience: co-creation, experience design and promotion

6. Networks and Strategic Partnership for enhancing the Overall Rural Tourism Experience

7. Enhancing sustainable development through rural tourism experiences

[i] The 3 years research project “The overall rural tourism experience and sustainable local community development” (PTDC/CS-GEO/104894/2008), is financed by Portuguese Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (co-financed by COMPETE, NSRF e ERDF) and started in June 2010, with field research in the villages Janeiro de Cima, Favaios and Linhares da Beira (see the left menu for more information about the ORTE Project). 



Please see the menu on the left for more information about the Conference.

Note that the working language of the conference will be English.


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