The economic importance of rural and cultural tourism in countries such as Spain, France, the United Kingdom and Portugal stems from their particular sites, which have maintained their architectural style and rich heritage. This spurred interest in carrying out a research study, published in the latest issue of Tourism Management, which focuses on tourism in Spanish villages with no more than 2,000 inhabitants and great architectural, cultural or historical value.
“The first phase of the study was qualitative and based on group dynamics and in-depth interviews, which resulted in us creating a range of 34 variables that make it possible to evaluate the image of a tourist destination”, Marcelo Royo-Vela, a researcher at the University of Valencia and lead author of this study, tells SINC.
The survey was carried out in the towns of Belasú, Santa Pau and Pals, all in Catalonia, and shows that the typical profile of rural tourists or day-trippers (who accounted for 60% of the total) is that of an adult, with a degree or equivalent, and who is looking for the chance to switch off, relax and visit new places.
Eight key factors were obtained from these 34 variables, and the experts have used these to create a tourism management model for these villages. Royo-Vela says that the historical-cultural wealth of a place, the emotions it arouses, the cleanliness and tranquillity of the surroundings, the welcome given by the inhabitants of the village, its architectural harmony and degree to which this style has been maintained, its shops, its historical heritage and richness of its landscape, and the tourism-cultural management and complementary facilities and services provided are all key features within this model of tourism marketing. “The study shows very clearly which elements the local town council must act upon in these sorts of places”, the researcher explains.
This management model aims to set out the lines of strategic action designed to help boost tourism in villages with limited resources.
The study also shows the direct correlation between the emotional and cognitive aspects of a trip. “People’s emotional response when they visit a village is very interesting. The cognitive and emotional factors are always separated when measuring the image of a destination, but when it comes to the stones, the history and the people of a place, people have a high emotional response”, points out Royo-Vela.