Rural Tourism Development in Iran
As the twentieth century has recently ended, rural development as advocated and practiced by the World Bank is still facing many issues and challenges, because rural development strategies have not been successful in the past. It was not successful in dealing with issues like poverty, employment, health, food security and environmental sustainability. On top of that, strategies in distribution of development benefits also failed and have caused many problems for rural areas (Anderson & Thomson 2003, p.169 -71). The increase in rural migration towards major cities and the reduction in rural households’ income and in rural agriculture have led to an increasing demand for alternative sources beside agriculture activities. As a result, many theorists, planners and implementers began to reconsider the issue in order to seek new methods of analyzing and presenting the problem, and addressing solutions to help rural areas to develop. One of the new strategies that was recently considered and even implemented in some countries, with positive results, is developing tourism in rural areas which have the potential for tourism development.
The study of the role of tourism in rural development can explore better utilization of natural and human resources in these areas, as well as possible economic growth, agricultural promotion, and handicraft production (Hall & Page 2006, pp. 241-3). It should be acknowledged that tourism alone cannot satisfy all of villagers’ needs and it should be interconnected with other sectors of economy and planning principles in order to obtain appropriate results for development. This particularly concerns the rural areas in terms of sustainable development. (Eghbali, Nosrat & Alipour 2011, p.44)
In Iran, which is the country of interest of this research, agriculture is the most important source of income for people in rural areas. However, this source alone cannot earn enough income and provide economic security for rural population. Hence, tourism development as a new strategy for rural development in Iran may play an important role in economic diversification in rural communities and create new opportunities for many. This includes employment creation in the lucrative non-agricultural sectors, increasing rural incomes and reducing differences in income between rural and urban areas. Moreover, tourism development also may play an important role in reducing migration of rural population to cities, and hence, minimizing the problems and issues of major cities (Faghri 2008, pp.5-7).
There are a great number of rural areas in Iran with massive tourism-attraction potentials in different aspects of geographical, cultural, and verity of natural attractions, customs and traditions. These rural-tourism potentials can satisfy tourist’s need for relaxation, exposure to cultures, and joy of natural beauties.
Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism organization...