Agritourism: A Sustainable Development Factor for Improving the ‘Health’ of Rural Settlements

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Agritourism is a complex activity, a chance maybe today to ensure both human health and the “health” of the environment and rural settlements in order to achieve a most wanted desideratum, the sustainability of the rural environment. The idea of this paper starts from the trend of the current period, meaning the strong emphasis on natural, organic, bio, in all human activities, health and environment, in a word, sustainability. The necessity of implementing the sustainability of activities, health and environment in rural areas, taking into account the agritourism field, was a subject pursued in the study, taking as area of study the mountainous rural environment, the reason of this choice deriving from the fact that the mountain area offers great opportunities for agritourism development, the practice of which is even necessary in the current period. The sustainability of agritourism on rural health and environment cannot be dissociated from the economic, social and cultural life of the community in which it manifests itself, and has a multiplier effect on all the domains with which it interacts. So the purpose of the paper is to follow the development of the agritourism field and, based on some present information, to make a future forecast for some specific indicators, to highlight the representative aspects related to the development and capitalization of guesthouses from a rural mountain environment through agritourism and to come up with a forecast for future transformations that need to take place in the studied area in order to support the sustainable development of the human environment through agritourism.


agritourism; sustainable development; the “health” of rural settlements; Apuseni mountains; forecast through a logistic model

1. Introduction

Most European countries, and beyond, have to see rural development as a chance to fight poverty, to ensure the sustainability [1,2] of the rural environment, so each industry is encouraged to find a solution for sustainability in its own field. [3] Sustainability puts its accent on values and principles, which have as their main purpose to guide actions, in a responsible and harmonious way, taking into consideration the environmental and societal consequences, as well as economic purposes [4].

Agritourism is an activity that links the economic, social and environmental components of sustainability, strongly related to local communities and their attitudes towards tourism [5], so one of the solutions for rural areas can undoubtedly be agritourism. Agritourism can be seen as an innovative and diversifying strategy for farms, [6] including recreational and leisure activities for tourists, with many economic and non-economic benefits for farmers, visitors and communities [7], with a significant emphasis on natural, organic, bio aspects, in any part of human activities, health and the environment, in a word on sustainability [8,9]. In practical terms, agritourism is a complex activity, which is directly connected with other local activities [10]. In a rural locality, tourism cannot be dissociated from the economic, social and cultural life of the community in which it manifests itself. In European countries, agritourism has become a priority in the last decades of this century, in local development policies now and in the future, and this type of tourism is being based on three coordinates: space, people and products that are in a close correlation, unable to exist without each other. Agritourism can support new directions in rural sustainable development, with specific effects on the environment, agricultural heritage, or economic growth [11,12].

As a tourism offer, agritourism appeared in Europe around the 1960s. The popularity of rural and mountainous areas, in particular, [13] as a possibility to spend a second holiday [14] has increased in most countries [14]. Therefore, in European countries agritourism is not a new phenomenon, what is new is the expansion of it in recent years justified by concerns related to a high quality of life, and of course sustainability. Every offer of agritourism varies in Europe. The real agritourism offer is relatively rare, [11,15] so there are countries with specific agritourism offer (such as Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium), or with a mixed offer of rural tourism and agritourism (France, Ireland, Portugal).

As mentioned, the notion “sustainable” is used in various fields, agritourism being one, so sustainability has become one of the most important strategic issues for many rural areas. [3] Most studies have shown that tourism combined with rural resources and traditional products would be an important “tool” for revitalizing rural, mountainous areas [16,17,18,19,20,21,22]. Modern patterns of rural development highlight that a rational and planned exploitation of agricultural resources together with the valorization of cultural and naturalistic heritage of rural areas, or simply said, the right leverage to assure sustainable growth of rural settlements, are through agritourism [23].

In fact, the connection between agritourism and sustainability is very well identified in the Italian National Law, [24] in which the eight sustainable objectives of agritourism to support rural area are mentioned: stop rural outmigration by keeping farmers on the land, improving the use of both natural and built rural resources; enhancement of environmental conservation and management; promotion of ”typical” rural products; support for rural traditions and cultural initiatives; development of agricultural areas; development of youth and social tourism; and enhancement of the relationship between city and countryside [25].

The idea of sustainable development through agritourism activity in the Apuseni Mountains area is supported by the high potential for tourism activities, (the degree of urbanization is below 30%, meaning large areas that are still rural), and we consider it to be one of the viable solutions for this area. Other studies are based on this statement, studies which reveal the fact that the little settlements here are in decline in the face of limited employment opportunities and poor services, and very important for the “health” of this area is the emphasis on private farming and the expansion of some new activities that are attractive to young people, such as agritourism [17,22].


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