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Foreword.

For several decades the rural space in developed market economies has been undergoing a major process of restructuring. Principles of concentration, specialization, and scale economies have been the driving forces of agricultural change. This has been coupled with an acceleration of urban encroachment of the rural space, counter-urbanization flows, an increase in environmental awareness and protection, and changing government and local authority policies. From the point of view of the individual farming household, the new economic policies, committed above all to viability, have trapped farmers into adjustment strategies inextricably tied to a technological and economic treadmill. The restructuring of production practices and land uses in the rural space involves a diminution of the role of agriculture, with farm pluriactivity and diversification being key elements. The qualitative transformation that is associated with what some see as the de-agriculturalisation of rural economies is accompanied by the spread of non-farming activities and their related land uses. Moreover, restructuring is associated with societal change, new environmental issues, and increasing unevenness in the rural space. The outcome was pushing a large number of farmers out of agricultural activity and into a quest for new survival strategies among which rural tourism has been prominent.

There are differing points of view in defining rural tourism, yet largely it is acceptable that it is concerned with all forms of tourism which implemented in the rural space. There are also different terms for tourism in the countryside, including rural tourism, agricultural tourism, ecotourism, green tourism and agro tourism. The rural communities and the countryside offer natural landscape (mountains, lakes, rivers and forests), rural heritage (traditional agriculture and historical buildings), rural way of life (local events, country food and music), and specific activities (such as harvesting agricultural products, riding, hiking and fishing). Being a tourist in the countryside offeres the possibility to be acquainted with its main treasures: culture, customs and traditions, and allows the tourists to get in the everyday life of the rural communities. The development of tourism can bring significant benefits to rural households, communities and countryside areas. These benefits are expressed in a number of spheres: economic (job opportunities, income and improvement in welfare level), social (cultural exchange and revitalization of traditions) and environmental (development of sustainable tourism).

In this sense, rural tourism seems to be an appropriate tool to revitalize the declining rural areas and to ensure their sustainable future by job retention or even job creation, farm support, broadened cultural provision, landscape and nature conservation or the maintenance of rural arts and crafts as attractions for tourists. Rural tourism often provides an incentive for infrastructural development, which then contributes to the growth of other economic activities in the rural areas. It is Important to note that, the growing number of tourists involved in rural tourism and related activities helped the development of many rural settlements, without being limited to areas with high tourism potential and an exceptional attractiveness. The way in which rural tourism is organized and the forms it takes vary from country to country. In some countries, the government or cooperative movement is the main source of investment, while in others it is a private enterprise. Altogether, it is possible to argue that there is a certain shift in the productive nature of the rural space from being only a productive space towards being a space consumed by the non-rural inhabitants.

The main objective of this special issue is to investigate the trends in rural tourism all over the world. This issue includes eight papers focusing on different aspects and phenomena of contemporary rural tourism, and the selected case studies reflect on related issues in different countries and regions around the globe.

The first paper written by Mihaela DINU, Adrian CIOACA, Monica RATIU and Andreea-Diana PASCUT analyzes both the evolution and the current state of rural tourism in the Carpathian area of Romania that recently has become more popular tourist destination.

Jo BENSEMANN's paper explores the experience of owners of rural tourism accommodation businesses in New Zealand within the framework of copreneurship.

Dali NikolaishvilI, Lika Matchavariani and Otar Demetrashvili elaborate on the methodology of evaluating the agri-tourism potential based on comprehensive analysis and indicate the natural, social-economic and historic-cultural factors in Georgia.

Carol KLINE, Jason SWANSON and Lee-Anne MILBURN explore the characteristics of the communities and residents in the rural Western North Carolina Appalachian Mountain region in the United States, and the relationship of those characteristics to tourism entrepreneurship in the region.

Bernard de MYTTENAERE examines the role and position of local agrifood products that have been mobilized as resources for tourism development projects in rural areas, by means of a case study focusing on a territory in the south of Belgium.

Liliana POPESCU and Amalia BADITA present the current state of rural tourism in Oltenia, one of Romania's developing regions, the challenges for the development of rural tourism in the area, as well as the extent to which rural tourism is a realistic economic development option.

Sangchoul YI, Jonathon DAY and Liping CAI apply a durational model to tourism demand for the rural tourist market while analysing tourists' length of stay in rural areas of the United States.

The last paper in this issue by Xie ZHENG examines the critical links between rural tourism in a minority region, Lijiang, Southwest of China, and its impact upon the local ethnic group, the Naxi.

Altogether, this special issue is an additional contribution to the ongoing academic discussion about rural tourism and the tremendous changes that the countryside has been experiencing around the world in recent time.

May, 2011

Prof. Mihaela DINU, Editor in Chief

Prof. Michael Sofer, Guest Editor

Dr. Alon Gelbman, Guest Editor
COPYRIGHT 2011 Romanian-American Association of Project Managers for Education and Research (RAAPMER/ARAMPEC)
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Author:Dinu, Mihaela; Sofer, Michael; Gelbman, Alon
Publication:Journal of Tourism Challenges and Trends
Date:Jun 1, 2011
Words:941
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