(The Gist of Kurukshetra) Socio
Cultural Impacts of Rural Tourism
Socio Cultural Impacts of Rural Tourism
- Tourism as an activity undertaken by individuals provides
diversification from routine functions of one’s day to day life. Today
tourism is recognised as one of the largest industries of the world.
- It contributes to employment generation, enhances income and
enables fair distribution of wealth from an economic perspective.
Simultaneously it provides a ground for cultural exchange, enhances
tolerance and mutual respect amongst different cultures and promotes
international friendship. It is also one of the surest and economical means
of gaining exchange income.
Introducing Rural Tourism
Rural tourism can be defined as the country experience encompasses which a
wide range of attractions and activities that take place in agricultural or
non-urban areas. The essential characteristics of this form of tourism include
wide-open spaces, low levels of tourism development, and opportunities for
visitors to directly experience agricultural and/or natural environments. Rural
tourism can be defined according to its relationship with its environment
Prerequisites of rural tourism that lend a unique experience to tourists are
that the destination should be:
- Located in a rural area
- Functionally rural. It should revolve on small settlements, open
space and in contact with nature and the natural world, traditional
societies their heritage and traditional practices.
- Traditional in character, growing organically and connected with
local families. It will often be very largely controlled locally and
developed for the long term good of the area.
Positive Impact in Building Rural Societies
- Rural tourism, though just a minority tourism market, is making a
valuable contribution to rural economies. Its contribution can be expressed
not only in financial terms, but also in terms of jobs, contributions
towards funding conservation and encouragement to the adoption of new
- In terms of the social fabric of the rural community, definitely
an additional source of income that comes from tourism contributes
positively to this community. The rural society through tourism can overcome
their complete dependence on agriculture for revenue.
- Tourism can also build a sense of pride amongst the rural
community in their heritage and traditions. The rural community is also
exposed to the urban world directly and interactions between the two can
lead to encouraging mutual respect.
- One of the major positive impacts on the rural society is the
resurgence of cultural, traditional and historical traditions. This caters
to a conducive environment for conservation and sustainable management of
local and indigenous culture, arts and crafts.
- The presence of tourists who are in awe and praise local talent
and art can make the rural society realize the importance of their culture
and thus tourism can play an important role in conserving and developing
art. Due to this awareness amongst the local rural population, tourism has
the strength to stimulate pride in local heritage.
- Cultural commodification results in the transformation of
value-from sacred to profane and from real to the unauthentic.
- Cole summarises that tourism collects various cultural components
and then sometimes adds something artificial to make it eye catching.
- This is then packaged and sold to tourists. Tourism can turn local
cultures into sellable items or commodities.
- Religious rituals, traditions and festivals are reduced to
commodities that conform to tourist expectations. This results in what is
now termed as reconstructed ethnicity.
- The actual and sacred significance of a ritual or tradition loses
meaning even to those who had been following them religiously. This
endangers the social customs of the community.
- Landscape, accommodation, food and drinks must meet the
requirements of the tourists in spite of the fact that tourists actually
move to exotic rural destinations for experiencing change.
- The tourists most often look for familial features at such
destinations. Standardization of cultural tourist areas means bringing
recognizable features such as food, hotels, and movies to exotic
destinations to make the tourist feel more comfortable in their
surroundings. Standardization also means taking a culture and changing it to
appeal to the tourists.
- Standardization means offering a common product on a national,
regional or worldwide basis". According to Clow Standardization means
presenting a unified theme across nations and cultures". This can severely
damage the appeal of the rural area in the long run.
- At the same time, it also further damages the local produce as the
host community is forced to adapt to the tastes of the tourists.
- Tourists on their visits to rural destinations seek to purchase
the local arts, crafts and cultural manifestations as a souvenir. The local
craftsmen then respond to these demands but keeping up with the tastes and
requirements of the tourists make changes in design of their products to
bring them more in line with the demands.
- This leads to cultural erosion and eventually the original version
of the artefact becomes just a museum piece. This once again severely
damages the rural structure as authenticity is lost due to modern demands
- As the local rural population feels threatened by the constant
flow of tourists due to the changing patterns of their world, anti-tourist
attitudes may begin to manifest amongst the rural population.
- As a result of different cultural background, values, lifestyles,
languages and levels of prosperity cultural clashes may occur eventually
destroying the tourist- host bond.
- Apart from this, job level frictions may occur. This happens
mainly as stakeholders are usually the beneficiaries of tourism economically
as compared to the local community. This may further antagonize the local
population towards tourists.
- Other negative social influences of tourism of rural societies can
be felt in rise in prices of basic commodities which are hiked due to the
tourists but impacts the local community. Crime rates may typically increase
with growth of tourism activities in the rural area affecting the local
- Another concern due to growing tourism in rural areas is the
employment of children as they work for low pay. The ill of child labour is
another issue that needs to be addressed by the tourism industry. Rural
areas may also experience a surge in flesh trade as these bring easy money.
- Since the positive and negative outcomes of tourism depend on
human factors, including the attitude and behaviour of tourists and hosts
during the interactions, so tourists, tourism and hosts are jointly
responsible not solely.
- Strengthening local cultural value is a vital point. In Indonesia,
local people agreed to stage dance and music, but disagreed to stage rituals
because they didn't want to commodify their core value.
- The success of rural tourism lies in creating a balance between
the positive and negative impacts of tourism and maintaining a healthy rural
- Rural tourism has an immense possibility for exotic destination
seekers and has been recognized as a key business opportunity by the stake
holders mainly due to the growing demand for domestic weekend holidays.
- It is therefore paramount that the third party involved that is
the rural community should be an equal beneficiary through tourism with
minimal, damages to its socio-cultural structure.