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Rural Tourism

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After the introduction of the concept of sustainable developÐ'¬ment by the World CommisÐ'¬sion on Environment and Development (1987), this concept was widely accepted by the vast majority of Western countries including the European Union as a starÐ'¬ting point for their policies. The acceptance of this approach can be seen as an expression of the increasing environmental awareness at the end of the eighties. On the other hand, it can be argued that the introduction of such a concept was strongly related to the failure of traditional environmental policies in the previous decades. This failure necessitated the introduction of a general new approach aimed at realising a more sound environÐ'¬ment.

When pollution of the environment comes up for discussion certain sectors are often seen as the main cause of environmental disruption. In most countries special attention has been given to the pollution of steel mills, oil refineries, traffic and intensive agriculture. Generally speaking, tourism was not seen as a real threat to nature and the environÐ'¬ment. Recently, this picture has changed. There is an increasing awareness of the strong relationship between tourism and the quality of nature and the environment. One of the results of this development is that the concept of sustainable development has been accepted in tourism studies (Farell and McLellan, 1987; Farell and Runyan, 1991, Briassoulis and Van der Straaten, 1992). In addition, authorities took this approach as a starÐ'¬ting point for their environÐ'¬mental and economic policies (Van der Straaten, 1992). Recently, the European Union accepted the Fifth Action Programme 'Towards Sustainability' in which tourism is given special attention (1992).

However, the acceptance of the concept of sustainable development does not mean that this concept is implemented in all concrete policies of countries and of the European Union. It has to be said that nobody is against sustainable developÐ'¬ment. It can be accepted by every polluting industry as a starting point for realising a sound environÐ'¬mental situation. However, as soon as vested interests become aware that authoriÐ'¬ties have the intention to introduce strict norms and standÐ'¬ards in their sector, they generally have a different opinion. They argue that in this special case the economic posiÐ'¬tion of the pollutÐ'¬ing sector is too important to be confronted with strict norms. From many investigaÐ'¬tions it becomes clear that vested economic interests are, in many cases, able to neutralise the implementation of strict norms (see for example Kasperkovitz, 1992; Opschoor and Van der Straaten, 1993; Dietz and Van der Straaten, 1992).

The aim of this chapter is to investigate the implementaÐ'¬tion of sustainable tourism in La Sierra in La Rioja in Spain, and in the Northern Pennines in the United Kingdom. These regions have many characteristics in common. They are typical rural regions in which employÐ'¬ment has decreased for a long period and in which traditional agriculture has taken a dominant position for many decades. The regions include mountain areas with stock-farming, in particular sheep, and forestry being the major sources of income. Both regions can be defined as periphÐ'¬eral which implies that the intensifiÐ'¬caÐ'¬tion of agriculture has not been so dominant as is the case in the more centrally located agriculÐ'¬tural regions. The average income is relatively low in both regions, emigration figures are high, and unemployment figures are high (Mellors, 1990; CommisÐ'¬sion of the European Community, 1990; Fernandez, 1993). Last century both regions were relatively prosperous. In La Rioja, wine, ceramic and textile industries were the main sectors, whereas in the North Pennines lead-ore mining was the major economic activity. However, in this century the agricultural activities became more significant. Nowadays, agricultural restructuring (Common Agricultural Policy initiated by the European Union) result again in a decline of the local economy. Alternative economic activities, including tourism, are being sought in order to revitalise the local economy in the long tern (Commission of the European CommunÐ'¬ity, 1990-b and 1992).

After the Second World War, as the rural economy declined, many people emigrated to the nearby industrialised regions. For instance in the 1970's more than fifty villages in La Sierra were abandoned as Logrono, Pamplona and Bilbao industrialised. It is a similar picture in the North Pennines region where high levels of average employment can be found, in particular amongst the younger population.

Both areas are rich in cultural heritage as they were both economic centres in previous centuries. Lead-ore mines in the North Pennines and mineral mines in La Sierra are recently reopened as a tourist attraction. Additionally, La Rioja has become well-known for its wine and agricultural products. In both areas well preserved remnants can be found of old culÐ'¬tures, such as the Celts and the Romans, while Christian and Arab civilization played a significant role in La Rioja (Elias, 1992).

Both regions are, for different reasons, attractive as a tourist destinaÐ'¬tion. HowÐ'¬ever, tourist infrastructure does not meet the condiÐ'¬tions of mass tourism. Of course, there are many differences between these two regions. The most significant is that La Rioja is located in 'sunny' Spain, while the Northern Pennines are often associated with clouds, fog, and low temperatures.

Rural areas such as La Rioja and the Northern Pennines have become potential tourist destinations as they characterise the authentic rural life and the peace and quietness of the natural landscape. Visitors search for places to relax, to break away from daily routines and to sense a kind of freedom and escapism. In these regions tourism can be promoted as a major source of regional income. However, due to the many examples of uncontrolled tourism development in other areas of Spain and in Italy, and the increasing relevance of environÐ'¬mental issues, sustainable developÐ'¬ment and segmented marketing have been regarded as most important in order to manage tourism successfully in the countryÐ'¬side. Within sustainable development the environmental and cultural integrity of the area is maintained for the benefits of tourists and residents.

The objectives and strategies of the regional authorities in these two mountain regions within the European Union, which focus on sustainable tourism, have been studied. In both regions partnerships between the major funding organisations and the public authorities have been established. In La


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