Rural tourism as a development strategy : case studies from Chile : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Applied Science in Rural Development at Massey University
In the last ten years Chilean governments have implemented various polices aimed at rural poverty alleviation, focusing initially only on agricultural development and more recently also on non-agricultural development, promoting activities such as rural tourism. While rural tourism has been developed in Chile to some extent, there is still a lack of empirical research on its development and impacts. The aim in doing this study was to overcome this lack of research and guide strategies for rural tourism development initiatives in Chile. To achieve this, a multiple case study involving two communities was undertaken to identify ways in which smallholder farming households can be assisted in diversifying their livelihoods into rural tourism. Data were collected using semi-structured interviews and participatory methods. These data were then analysed using qualitative methods. Households which have diversified into rural tourism are very positive about it. In economic terms rural tourism has allowed them to improve their housing conditions and increase spending on their children's education, and has provided work for women and young people. Rural tourism has also increased women's self-esteem and, importantly, has led people to place a higher value on their cultural traditions. It has also increased environmental awareness and fostered native tree planting at the household level. Rural tourism has also had some negative consequences, such as loss of family privacy, increased noise and increased solid waste problems. The main findings of this research suggest that there are key factors for successful rural tourism development. Therefore, for rural tourism to become a viable strategy for smallholder farming households assistance needs to take into account such things as provision of credit, technical assistance in setting up a rural tourism product to meet tourists' expectations, building stakeholders' capacity in rural tourism and business management, as well as assistance in establishing and managing an association of rural tourism providers. Changes to regulatory frameworks are also required to enable the setting up of rural tourism ventures. Effective cooperation and coordination between tourism operators and rural tourism providers, as well as cultural impact management and solid waste management, are also needed for successful rural tourism development. Key words: rural tourism, rural development, livelihood diversification, Chile.