Exchanging urban for rural

HUZHOU, CHINA, 3 August 2017: Interest in Asia’s  rural tourism has spiked in recent years as a growing urban Asian population seek to escape their stressed-filled city life, through a relaxing holidays in the countryside.

Huzhou City, China, partnered with the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) and World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) to host The Second International Rural Tourism Conference last month in Anji County.

During the opening ceremony, PATA chief operating officer, Dale Lawrence, presented the International Rural Tourism Destination Base Award to Anji County Magistrate Chen Yonghua.

PATA Foundation chairman, Peter Semone, launched the UNWTO publication, “Report on International Rural Tourism Development: An Asia Pacific Perspective”. The 200-page document presents case studies on 14 rural tourism destinations in the Asia Pacific, including Huzhou.

“As 2017 is the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, we wanted this publication to focus on best practices and successful strategies in Asia Pacific rural tourism development,” said Semone, who was the publication’s lead writer.

More than 300 plus delegates from over 15 countries to attended the event.

Homestays and accommodation and lifestyle experiences were core elements on the event’s agenda.

Airbnb China vice president An Li stepped in with an alternative for rural tourism accommodation. “Airbnb is ‘all for one’ tourism in a share economy. Distribution is better than hotels, and more hosts can participate,” she said, adding, “Airbnb-ers stay twice as long as those in traditional accommodation. They tend to be bigger spenders, and want good accommodation.”

The repot aims to showcase the power that rural tourism has to help people escape poverty, improve their livelihoods, and slow urban migration, according to its author, Semone.

Criteria included a rural location and activities that remain rural in scale, traditional in character, growing slowly and organically, and connected with small-scale enterprises and local families.

Each of the report’s 14 case studies has a different theme, as the situations of their destinations vary.

“The case studies demonstrate that with the right circumstances and conditions, rural tourism can create new sources of income at both the community and household levels,” Semone said.

The report concludes that rural tourism destinations need to create responsible and sustainable business plans and proactive marketing strategies that account for their specific situations. Semone summed up: “There are different paths to the same goal.”