Environmental Impacts and Sustainable Development of Rural Tourism The paper intends to study the environmental impacts and sustainable development of rural tourism. As Wall (2006) mentions, there are large quantities of research papers on economic impacts of tourism. Besides, considerable statistics greatly ease the analyses and measurements. The environmental impacts of tourism have been paid more and more attention in recent years; but due to debate on indicators and some other objective barriers, they are hard to measure. Yet there is no doubt that studies on environmental impacts contribute more to sustainable development Of ours.
Nowadays, with the ever-increasing urban population, more and more people are engaging in tourism in leisure time to relax and escape from a fast-pace city life. This promotes rural tourism. Rural tourism, as a relatively new subsection in tourism industry, therefore bears some research value in terms of environmental impact assessment According to the definition provided by World Tourism Organization (1995) in its technical manual, tourism refers to “traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business ND other purposes” (p. 0). It is commonly agreed that the distance should be above km from home, the stay should be more than one day, and the tour itself is not for remuneration. Besides, tourism can be classified into leisure tourism, visiting relatives and friends, and business tourism based on different motivations. Specifically, rural tourism refers tourism to rural areas. And more often than not, the motivations of rural tourism are for leisure and visiting friends and relatives.
Sustainable development, according to Encyclopedia of Business in Today’s World, refers to development where people protect environment in such a way that the environment can content both current and future needs. The concept, confirmed in the early sass, is relatively new. Then specifically, sustainable tourism is tourism with the spirit of sustainability. Although its definition is still controversial, it originated from “the recognition that human behavior has both positive and negative impacts on the natural environment” according to “Berkshire Encyclopedia of Sustainability” (2010).
In this way, sustainable development and environmental protection are closely related to each other. Environmental preservation determines sustainable development. Research on rural tourism is becoming more and more popular. Some new findings, experiments, and trends are spotted in this academic field. But due to the diversity Of local attractions, customs, different government policies and traditional activities in tourism destinations, research are limited to case studies specifying on one particular destination.
There are large quantities of papers and newspapers focusing on rural tourism case studies. Meanwhile, they do have common features. Often, rural tourism is largely encouraged by government as a way to provide jobs and rejuvenate an old country area. They can also be very seasonal, such as the harvest time rural tourism in India. The successful and popular rural tourism destination are always endowed with local specialties as well as beautiful natural scenery.
On the whole, studies on rural tourism are mainly on economic impacts with no exception, and environmental impacts are mentioned briefly in the text more often than not. Besides, partly due to the derogatory sense of the word “impact”, the word has been used with a low frequency in research papers. Plus the fact that rural tourism products are created under people’s tiredness f city life and wish to escape from it, the development of them are at still early stage especially in developing communities.
In terms of its research on environmental impacts, however, there are not still much research specially focusing on the negative environmental impacts. Based on the searching results, studies on rural tourism witnessed an apparent increase after 2000. As is mentioned above, rural tourism is also facing a bottleneck of lack Of indicators. Yet efforts are made, such as Barbarian, et al. (2013) on “marine waste management indicators” and Wang, K. , & You, Y. (2013) on integrated environmental indicators in rural communities.
Currently, the environmental impacts of rural tourism are mainly reflected in the high “carbon emission” by mass tourism, according to Gaffe (2013), which can be seen in tourists’ luxury consumption and energy waste, such as leaving lots of untouched food on dining table, keeping light on while leaving the hotel-room and not using public transportation system in crowded destinations. It can be seen from here that rural tourism in developing areas with larger population can put a higher threat to the local environment, simply by too many tourists.
In order o solve the problems and ease environmental impacts, researchers have done questionnaires and surveys to collect information, as well as put forward strategic suggestions. For example, Barras-Barras, M. , & Moodjar; JimNZ, J. (2010) has done an environmental impact questionnaire and found the way to reduce environmental impacts in rural tourism is “largely related to business management committed to adoption of measures to save energy and resources and customers’ environmental awareness” (p. 96). And Gaffe (2013) suggests that formal and informal institutions be established to monitor the impacts.
There are quite a few case studies which show the symbiotic relationship between rural tourism and environment, and can provide evidence for the above opinions. It has been reflected in the increase of environmental conservation awareness in the case of Saneness Hoaxing, Changed, China, and the high satisfaction rate of tourists in Austria, Croatia. Generally speaking, featured natural resources is a prerequisite for rural tourism development, such as flower market, and wine tour in Spain. While religion can also be an important attraction, such as traditional Hindu religious festivals in West Bengal.
But because of mass tourism, the conflict between economic development and local environment has become visible. In He et al (201 2)g’s study in 2010, the average annual income for every farmer rocketed to 13320 ARM, around $2,285 CAD, With the cost of receiving 11. 8 million tourists in that year, an almost unbelievable figure in Canada. And as mentioned by the researchers, the local tourism of Saneness Hoaxing is also highly uneven in seasons. There are few tourists in winter, which means 1 1. 8 million tourists crowded in the town with only 1 5,000 mum (about 10 square kilometers).
But the author did not mention anything about the environmental capacity or the overloading at all. Same cases are seen in rural tourism in many other developing areas and countries. Fifth questionnaire on environmental impacts should be adopted in China’s and Indian’s rural tourism, the results probably would not be satisfying. More often than not, the large population itself means a simple weekend tour can cause congestion and overloading, let alone official holidays. Thus It is safe to conclude that it is more rewarding to emphasize the environmental impact research in these developing areas with high population density.
Given the fact of lack of research, it is highly suggested that questionnaires and indicators be used in the research. And opinions from local residents can better reflect the relation between tourists and local community, which further reflects the relationship between tourism and local environment. Rural tourism is usually developed in less developed areas, under the support and subsidiaries from government. Environmental issues must be properly monitored in order to achieve sustainable development. Only in this way can overloading be avoided and controlled, and after-the-fact research be reduced.
Developing countries should be the highlight of the research. They are also the ones which are ought to promote monitoring mechanisms and better policy making process.