(The Gist of Kurukshetra) Socio Cultural Impacts of Rural Tourism [APRIL-2019]


(The Gist of Kurukshetra) Socio Cultural Impacts of Rural Tourism

[APRIL-2019]


Socio Cultural Impacts of Rural Tourism

Introduction

  •  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 working practices.
  •  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

  •  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.

Standardization

  •  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.

Cultural Erosion

  •  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 and interventions.

Cultural Clashes

  •  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.

Ethical Issues

  •  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 population.
  •  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.

Conclusion

  •  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 environment.
  •  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.
     

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