The large majority of the 65 publications compare tourism issues in both rural and urban contexts. These papers belong to the tourism literature, and they were published in leading tourism journals. A good number of them discussed the spatial differences between the distribution of tourism benefits and the impact of tourist activities over rural and urban areas (Hall and Page, 2014) and communities, in both developing countries (Adiyia et al., 2014) and in developed countries (Zhang et al., 2007), with specific reference to sport tourism events (Fennell, 1998). Other authors focused on differences in motivations and preferences between rural (and coastal) and urban tourists, based on the attributes of the place they visit (Andriotis, 2011), landscape features (Yu, 1995), destination image perception among rural and urban visitors (Hunter and Suh, 2007), comparing urban and rural consumers’ preferences for agri-tourism in Kazakhstan (Kenebayeva, 2014) or urban and rural destination choices. A group of scholars studied the difference between rural villagers and urban residents in perceiving the impact of change induced by tourism development (Sharma and Dyer, 2009) and in tourism demand based on income differences (Yang et al., 2014). The effects of seasonality and summer weather conditions (Falk, 2015) on rural and urban destinations were also tested. Research showed that demand for tourism in rural areas was from middle class urbanities with the double aim of breaking free from everyday life and reenergizing in the countryside (Silva, 2007), whereas rural vacation destination choice is influenced by household origin and social class (Zhang et al., 2007). Comparisons between rural and urban case studies in relation to media coverage differences (Lahav et al., 2013), tourist public transport use at the touristic destination (Le-Klahn and Hall, 2015), slum tourism in South Africa (Rogerson, 2014), tourism marketing strategies in wineries (Barber et al., 2008) and development and management of small tourism firms in New Zealand (Ateljevic, 2007) complete this first part of the discussion.
The second group is composed of several contributions that focus on the urban-rural fringe areas, together with specific tourism activities that take place in this urban-rural continuum (Weaver, 2005). Kikuchi, in 2010, called for a conservation of rurality, against urbanization, as a fundamental condition for rurality-based tourism development in the fringe. Weaver and Lawton analysed resident perception (2001) and visitor attitudes (2004) towards tourism development in Australia, followed by host-guest interaction in the fringe (Zhang et al., 2006). Some scholars discussed second homes (Visser, 2006), their owners and the role of urban- rural migrant entrepreneurs in changing small rural towns in emerging tourism destinations (Donaldson, 2009). Second homes were analysed in the wider counter-urbanization movement and their contribution to rural socio-economic change was investigated (Fialova and Vagner, 2014). Job opportunities and revenue distribution were analysed in relation to national parks (Arnberger and Brandenburg, 2007) and leisure shopping centres (Jansen-Verbeke, 2012). These contributions in urban-rural fringe tourism cases close the second group.
Functional relations refer mainly to visible and invisible connections, flows of people, capital and financial transfer, movements of goods, natural resources, information and technology, administrative and services provision between urban and rural areas, both backwards and forwards (Preston, 1975). According to this definition, the last collection of papers was identified among the resulting academic contributions. The linkages between agricultural production and tourism services were presented as fostering the relationship between rural and urban areas, thus supporting sustainable urban-rural development (Yang et al., 2010). Furthermore, empirical evidence has defined farms and agricultural spaces as loci of rural and urban social change, family friendly places for recreation, education, small-scale production and personal growth (Amsden and McEntee, 2011).
Relationships between rural areas under urban pressure were studied in European case studies; results supported the hypothesis that rural- urban relationships preserve rural landscapes (Buciega et al., 2009). Hong Kong was the only case of a destination with a clear vision of an urban and rural joint tourist offer. The Hong Kong case study evaluated the opportunity to combine urban tourism experiences with rural excursions and nature tourism, in a new tourism product that could enrich and diversify Hong Kong’s tourism offer and increase the number of tourists (Jim, 2000).
According to the literature, urban-rural interconnections are based on flows of people: migrants, commuters and travellers. A good number of authors addressed the topic of people migration within urban-rural relationships. Case studies, like Cancun urbanization and tourism growth, described the migration of people from rural Mexico (Dufresne and Locher, 1995) in search of employment and job opportunities. Together with examples of the agricultural sector decline and no lasting benefits from rural-urban migration (Carte et al., 2010), the literature also presented other cases of counter-urbanization motivated by new employment possibilities linked to rural tourism (Loffler and Steinicke, 2006). The migration of people from urban to rural areas was confirmed to play a determinant role in restructuring rural areas and starting new entrepreneurial activities in Europe and Spain (Paniagua, 2002).
More recent literature has discussed the urban-rural relationship and tourism within a multidisciplinary approach. Tourism is combined with cultural activities, in an urban-rural partnership, to diversify and enrich a destinations’ offering (Pechlaner et al., 2015). Rural-urban linkages and governance aspects have been investigated in relation to natural resource management; both tourism and recreational activities impacted on rural settings and socio-economic aspects (Salmi, 2009). Results deriving from empirical research showed that rural areas benefit from having linkages with urban areas, in terms of employment growth and a strong tourism sector, while, at the same time, urban areas benefit from rural partnership, reporting higher levels of GDP, employment and population growth (Van Leeuwen, 2015).