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Urban-Rural Relations and Tourism in the Literature

Although urbanization, industrialization and agriculture still compete for land use, people, employment and natural resources, urban and rural economies are mutually interconnected and depend on each other (Bulderberga, 2011). The boundaries between concrete urban centres and extreme rural places have become blurred, in favour of a larger continuum and stronger interdependencies (Irwin et al., 2010). Some authors clearly state that the urban-rural dichotomy of past times no longer exists (Schaeffer et al., 2012). Scholars agree that both urban and rural places benefit from urban-rural relationships (Van Leeuwen, 2015), cities and countryside are interlinked parts of regional and national economy, and that an urban-rural approach provides solutions to address common socio-economic and environmental problems in a more sustainable perspective (Tacoli, 1998). However, to date, there is a limited body of academic research focusing on urban-rural linkages (Caffyn and Dahlstrom, 2005) and rural and urban relationships have been discussed mainly by economics, geography, social sciences and development studies (Davoudi and Stead, 2002).

Studies on urban-rural interactions have recognized the complexity and multidimensionality of this concept. Urban-rural linkages imply both an understanding of places (i.e. boundaries, locations of urban, rural and urban-rural spaces) and type of connections (i.e. flows, networks, visible, invisible) (Kule, 2014). More recently, the literature has referred to urban-rural relations in terms of structural relations and functional relations (Zonneveld and Stead, 2007). On the one hand structural relations emerge by the ‘way the physical environment is constituted and shaped’ (Zonneveld and Stead, 2007, p. 422) and they focus on land and resource availability within urban, rural and urban-rural spaces, such as fringe, exurbs, peripheries, suburbs and urban-rural continuums. On the other hand, functional relations refer mainly to physical and socio-economic connections, visible and invisible flows of people, capital and financial transfers, movements of goods, natural resources, information and technology, administrative and service provision that move backward and forward between rural and urban areas (Preston, 1975). Funnell (1988) underlined the need to understand the social political and economic conditions that create the urban-rural interactions.

While there are studies on specific types of linkages between rural and urban areas, such as employment, commuting, land use and migration, there are few academic theories on urban-rural relationships (Zonneveld and Stead, 2007) and there seems to be a general lack of clarity about the nature of these interactions (Caffyn and Dahlstrom, 2005). Furthermore, the debate is complicated by the variety of definitions on rural and urban areas used in the different geographical areas of the world (Davoudi and Stead, 2002). The contributions, listed below, present an international overview of the main theoretical perspectives, empirical realities and political positions over the past 20 years of urban-rural relations debate. Potter and Unwin published in 1995 one of the first works on urban-rural interactions in the developing world, followed by Tacoli, in 1998, who introduced a guide to the literature of rural-urban interaction in Africa, Asia and South America.

Davoudi and Stead (2002) presented an introduction and brief history of urban-rural relationships, with a focus on British and European contexts. The urban-rural dynamics in Europe have received growing analytical and political attention since the year 2000, within spatial strategies and territorial development plans. Several programmes, policy documents and funding projects (e.g. ESDP, SPESP, ESPON, INTEREG,

Territorial Agenda and RURBAN) were developed to promote cooperation between urban and rural places, as a means to achieve social, political and economic integration and cohesion among the European countries. Zonneveld and Stead (2007), together with Copus (2013), portrayed the evolution, over the past 25 years, of urban-rural relationships within European policy, arguing the difference between urban-rural relationships (related to functional linkages) and urban-rural partnerships (the policy dimension of these relationships) (OECD, 2013).

Lin (2001) and Li (2011) published two contributions on urban-rural interaction in China, presenting a literature review, historical scenario and case studies within the Chinese context. Although discussing different geographical, historical, cultural, socio-economic and political contexts, the overall studies highlight that urban-rural interactions have constantly increased, all over the world. The reasons can be found in labour-saving technological progress, reduction in transport costs, rising house incomes (Irwin et al., 2010), higher population mobility, the circulation of information and goods, and widespread information and communication technologies (Kule, 2014). Nevertheless, in many developing countries, the relationship between urban and rural areas is still characterized by a strong dualism. The publications underline the need for an integrated urban-rural strategy that involves planners, policy makers and stakeholder interactions based on a multilevel governance, in a win-win strategy to provide benefits for urban, rural and fringe areas.

Tourism, as a cross-disciplinary subject (Tribe, 1997), is likely to take an important stake in urban-rural relationships. Namely, tourism is based on people travelling within territories and across boundaries, staying outside their usual environment (UNWTO, 1995). The flow of people generates the movement of related resources, visible and invisible, such as the transfer of knowledge, experiences, competences and income, contributing to overall urban-rural interactions (Van Leeuwen, 2015), although the relevance of the topic literature has partly dealt with the urban-rural discussion (Weaver, 2005). Few exceptions can be found in the literature where tourism has been analysed either as an urban-rural linkage or as a specific phenomenon taking place in urban- rural spaces.

In one of the first studies on urban and rural connections, conducted in the West Midlands, a metropolitan county in England, Nadin and Stead (2000) identified tourism and recreational activities as one of the urban- rural linkages whose movement of people, goods, services, money, information, knowledge and innovation takes place in both urban and rural directions, backwards and forwards, driving new economic activities in both areas (Fig. 1.1). Zonneveld and Stead (2007) agree on the fact that the ‘concept of urban-rural relations covers a broad spectrum of interactions, ranging for example from leisure and tourism to transport and communication, from labour markets and employment to food and drink, from education and training to services and facilities’ (p. 441).

Flows of people and materials, between urban and rural. (Adapted from

Fig. 1.1. Flows of people and materials, between urban and rural. (Adapted from: Nadin and Stead, 2000.)

Furthermore, tourism, leisure and recreation have been recognized as one of the urban-rural interaction sub-types within the OECD classification (Copus, 2013). The European development strategy, aiming to balance the development between urban and rural areas, has promoted urban-rural functional linkages and partnerships. In the OECD publication (2013) some empirical cases on partnerships in tourism are presented, where firms, public institutions and other associations cooperated to offer integrated tourist services and products related to agriculture and the landscape (e.g. Wine and Flavours Route in Emilia-Romagna, Italy), culture and heritage, inland and coastal areas (e.g. product unions in Emilia-Romagna, Italy), and promoting the whole territory based on mutual dependence and interconnections. Most urban-rural interactions, especially in the tourism sector, are shaped by physical proximity as much as by organizational proximity (Copus, 2013), which expands the concept from an Euclidean geographical localization towards a wider network of socio-economic relations, between firms and different actors, as well as other forms of institutional collaboration.

Particular forms of tourism and recreational activities were identified in tourism literature on the basis of their development in urban-rural places, such as second homes, theme parks, golf courses, shopping malls and wellness centres. Weaver (2005) defined the urban-rural fringe as a ‘transitional zone between space that is more clearly urban and space that is more clearly rural’ (p. 23). This zone has been called, in both literature and political debates, exurbs, urban-rural continuum, peri-urban, semirural or semi-urban, to mention a few. All these terms focus on the physical space where rural and urban meet and merge. Weaver (2005) listed the specific tourism activities that take place in the urban-rural fringe, dividing them into six groups: theme parks and allied attractions; tourist shopping villages; modified nature-based tourism; factory outlet malls; touring; and golf courses. He called these activities ‘exurban tourism’, specifying their difference from rural and tourism products and their uniqueness in terms of product and market segmentations. He concluded that the urban-rural fringe is a distinct tourism environment that needs a specific subfield of investigation within tourism studies. Weaver clearly stated that tourism literature has neglected the urban-rural fringe as much as the urban-rural fringe, within geography and other social sciences, has neglected tourism (Weaver, 2005). Weaver and Lawton presented an analysis of residents’ perceptions in 2001, and visitors’ attitudes in 2004, on the potential of tourism in the urban-rural fringe, within an Australian destination.

Beesley (2010) focuses on tourism and recreational activities taking place in the fringe and exurban places. She presents a review of the literature on several types of tourism land use/activities taking place in the urban-rural fringe, such as farm and food tourism, nature-based tourism and peri-urban parks, festivals and second homes. These studies enrich Weaver’s list of urban-rural fringe tourism activities by including gambling, heritage tourism and cultural activities, and sporting and recreational events (Koster et al., 2010). While discussing the rural tourism business in North America, Timothy (2005) argued that trails (e.g. natural and cultural heritage paths, cycle and trekking trails) link urban clusters with rural and remote areas creating connections between places of history, culture and natural relevance.

There is evidence that the urban-rural partnership has great potential in tourism activities: a joint product and service development, based on complementarities of resources, cultural aspects and activities, can have a positive effect in enhancing tourism experiences and meeting tourists’ needs (Pechlaner et al., 2015). The relations between rural-urban and tourism have received little research attention (Koster et al., 2010), from both the tourism literature and wider geography and social sciences (Weaver, 2005), at both empirical and theoretical levels and, as per the author’s knowledge, no review on urban-rural and tourism linkages has been developed yet. Thus, a systematic literature review is undertaken, aiming to search for a larger number of papers discussing the research objective and, in doing so, enhancing the academic debate. The Methodology and Results are presented in the following sections.

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