I Urban Rural Linkages

Discussing Rural-Urban Tourism: A Review of the Literature

Marika Gon[1]

Universita degli Studi di Udine, Italy and Katholische Universitat Eichstatt Ingolstadt, Germany


Relations between urban and rural areas have a long tradition in academic research (Tacoli, 1998). Evidence confirms that urban-rural interdependencies have been influenced by opposite positions of anti-urban and pro-urban approaches (Davoudi and Stead, 2002). After many years of binary divide between rural and urban areas, the past two decades have witnessed unprecedented urban-rural connections (Potter and Unwin, 1995). The debate about urban-rural linkages has gained fresh prominence, with many authors arguing that both urban and rural places benefit from interlinked relationships and that urban-rural cooperation provides solutions to socio-economic and environmental problems in a more sustainable perspective (Tacoli, 1998; Beesley, 2010). This literature has been echoed by international institutions, governments and research centres, which called for stronger rural and urban relations, integrated policies and inclusive governance to support sustainable development, competitiveness in both rural and urban areas (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 2013) and address poverty reduction (Global Monitoring Report, 2013) and world inequalities (World Bank, 2006). Furthermore, the use of new terms, such as urbrural, rurbance, rur- banity and re-urbanity, together with the experiences of ‘urbanizing the rural and ruralizing the urban’ like city farms and farmers’ markets, confirm the need for further research in supporting unconventional planning and management approaches.

In agreement with the historical tendency of the debate, rural tourism and urban tourism have developed independently from each other, within the broader tourism literature. The attempt to link rural and urban tourism has registered limited consensus among scholars. However, people travel to different places all the time, moving to and across rural, urban and fringe areas. The flow of visitors affects urban-rural interactions in terms of the transfer of income, exchange of experiences, knowledge and cultural values (Van Leeuwen, 2015). The studies that can be found in the literature discuss urban-rural and tourism relations according to three different perspectives: tourism literature; geography-spatial analysis studies; and social sciences and development. Tourism literature focuses mainly on the comparison of tourism related issues within urban and rural contexts, investigating differences, similarities and implications. Geographers pay attention to urban-rural spaces and, together with tourism geographers, study particular forms of tourism that take place in the fringe, exurbs and urban-rural continuum. Multidisciplinary approaches rooted in social sciences, regional development and environmental planning address tourism, and related issues, as a specific type of urban-rural linkage. According to Weaver (2005), on one side, urban-rural relations and places have been studied by social sciences, geography, development and environmental disciplines with little attention paid to tourism topics and, on the other side, tourism literature has produced limited research in urban-rural interconnection and spaces.

The present chapter aims to provide an overview of the most relevant publications discussing the urban-rural and tourism relationship by combining the benefits of both traditional and systematic reviews of the literature published in the past 40 years. This contribution will, first, investigate the existing academic contributions that focus on tourism and rural-urban; and second, present and organize the results, highlighting gaps and addressing further research development, thus contributing to the academic debate.

It is important to make clear that the order of the words ‘urban-rural’ or ‘rural-urban’ employed in this chapter is not intended to have any significance in terms of relevance, dominance or supremacy of one area over the other (Copus, 2013).

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