Rural areas, around the globe, are underpopulated compared to megacities and high-growth hubs. Being more suitable for slow living, it never leaves the travellers’ bucket list to unwind from the ever-menacing stress of city life, particularly for those considered nature-lovers. Apart from indulging mother nature, these areas are often built for sporting events, thanks to their vast idle land. But quintessentially, on the international scale, why is tourism in rural areas so important?
With more and more people migrating to cities, jobs in rural areas are depleting. The United Nations forecasted that nearly 2 billion urban population will increase by 2050, indicating transmigration (urban residents relocating to suburbs and rural areas) as one of the solutions to balance the domestic economic rates. In rural areas where the workforce is less skilled, tourism may be favorable to uplift both the local and national economies. Instead of merely appearing as a piece of entertainment, tourism generates employment for the residents, as vacationers make consumption of a wide variety of products and services along their trip. This means the activity needs all sectors to satisfy their demand beyond food, travel, and accommodation, starting from the planning phase until their return back home. Below are two strategies to alleviate tourism in rural areas, namely sports tourism and film tourism, as proven by studies.
Sports tourism is integral to attracting sports fans and holiday seekers. For decades, this sector of tourism has enjoyed significant growth, especially when it comes to mega sporting events like the Olympics or World Cup.
- Sporting event sites become the winning tourist destination
The 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia highlighted a remarkable increase in tourists spectating the championship across 11 cities. Retrieved from Russian news agency Tass.com, foreign tourists amounted to 2.9 million that month. In its World Cup host cities, the rate almost doubled; whereas the number of tourists in less-populated cities like Saransk grew by 235%, Kaliningrad and Yekaterinburg grew by tenfold, and the greatest record was in Volgograd, at 15 times the normal rate.
- Viral sports attract tourists to visit sports facilities
Besides FIFA, China also sees beneficial outcomes from the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and its contribution to revitalizing the winter sports industry in rural districts. It has boosted revenues of local ski resorts nationwide, as citizens become empowered to venture into the trending sport. According to a ski resort owner in Huancheng, Jilin Province, visitors coming there have indeed risen threefold. Employees also increased from 20 to 35 people, and their salaries even rose by almost 17%. That being said, the Games have raised the local employment rate and heightened their living standards.
From the statistics mentioned above, it seems true that sporting events can bring immense social value to the locals, the latter anticipating sustainable growth in the economy.
Film tourism refers to tourism with destinations that involve locations played in the film. In recent years, film tourism has also been a key factor in raising many country’s GDP.
In Thailand’s Maya Bay, the film ‘The Beach’ starring Leonardo DiCaprio in 2000 made tourist volumes jump 3000-fold, making it a major contribution to Thailand’s GDP. Maya Bay is located on Phi Phi Islands, approximately a 2-hours boat ride from the island of Phuket, laden with abundant native and exotic marine life. Surprisingly, the pandemic hit in 2020 did not inhibit the opening of new hotels throughout Thailand; Phuket itself welcomed 17 new hotels that year. This, of course, widened the employment of Thai residents in both direct and non-direct jobs, such as hotels, airlines, tour agencies, restaurants, laundry, souvenir stores, etc.
Away from Asia, a few countries in Europe including Croatia and Ireland are deemed to be a hotspot for fans of the Game of Thrones (GoT) series. Between the years 2013 and 2018, the town of Dubrovnik in Croatia brought €180.7 million of tourism revenue to the country. Despite Dubrovnik being Croatia’s second most populated municipality, this was surpassing their normal tourism rate that their insufficient workforce led to recruiting employees from surrounding countries. Even more, plenty of travel websites also provided GoT tours that consist of visiting the film settings and its dress-up photo service. That being said, tour guides were getting in demand.
To sum up, promoting tourism is beneficial to a country in many respects, specifically for rural areas where economic development is relatively hindered. Besides adding social values to the people by expanding job opportunities and becoming more engaged with different cultures (perhaps by learning a new language; cooking food from different lands), it has a multiplier effect on building the country’s image by introducing its local scenic beauty and building hope for a more prosperous national economy.
Written By: Calista Narta
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