An investigation into the development of slow tourism approaches in Catalonia’s rural areas
Tourism is one the most important activities in the Catalan economy. However, the expansion of tourism without sustainable planning leads to social and environmental consequences. Catalonia’s rural areas, as many others in Europe are having high amounts of visitors, which indicate the need for sustainable approaches towards positive future development. Slow tourism is considered a promising approach, although with limited research on its implementation in rural areas as most studies focus on the slow food and slow city movements. Therefore, this research project investigates the suitability and opportunities for the development of slow tourism in Catalonia’s rural areas. Following a review of relevant literature, theories and concepts, a quantitative approach is adopted through the online distribution of a multilingual survey, which provides 129 validated responses, involving both potential local and international tourists to Catalonia. Findings confirm a high tourism demand for Catalonia’s rural areas with a general tendency to satisfy higher needs such as seeking authentic experiences and learning from other cultures, especially amongst Millennials. Moreover, even though most of the participants were not familiar with slow tourism, the majority of tourists would support its higher costs, but findings suggest that excessive pricing may be deterrent to some tourists. Slow tourism experiences were considered a source of educational knowledge, which indicates the suitability for promotion between marketers and local entrepreneurs, with diversification opportunities beyond nature-based, agriculture and gastronomy experiences. Nevertheless, a major preference for high emission means of transport is found to be one of the main challenges of this approach, which should be addressed. This research indicates that Catalonia is a suitable rural region to develop slow tourism and it is recommended that the local authorities adopt a slow tourism philosophy. Further research could investigate if travel experience acquired by tourists has an influence on supporting the cost of sustainability. Finally, the replication of the study with actual tourists is recommended as access was restricted.