Rural tourism is an important development strategy for some rural areas. Landscape is central to the visitor's tourism experience. While the literature suggests that some rural landscape features are likely to attract visitors, research on the impact of landscape on the rural tourism experience is rather limited, and often confined to studies supported by visual stimuli (e.g. photos), ignoring the impact of the direct contact of visitors with the territory. This study overcomes some of these limitations by assessing visitors’ perceptions of the rural landscapes based on two villages in Portugal, while visitors were still in the villages. Vegetation type and colour, and built heritage, emerge as key experience elements for tourists, but they were followed by a complex group of largely non-visual stimuli, including sounds, smells, tastes, people contact, “nature” in its wider sense, and the past. The potential for sustainable tourism development based on this rich array of key elements is addressed, along with the need for action at all levels to bring together tourism and landscape management in an integrated way for marketing, product development and conservation purposes. Differences among groups of visitors are noted, suggesting that different groups of visitors require different approaches.
- Historical Villages of Portugal
- rural areas
- rural tourism experience
- Schist Villages of Portugal