The Warsaw Voice » Travel » Monthly - April 25, 2013
Rural tourism
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Rural Areas as a Tourist Product
From a marketing perspective, rural Poland, with its distinct customs and traditions, is an attractive tourist product.

According to the government’s Guidelines for the Development of Tourism in Poland until 2015, “rural tourism can become a distinctive form of tourism in Poland provided the original features of the Polish countryside in terms of its culture and nature are preserved.”

Poland’s Marketing Strategy for the Tourism Sector for 2012-2020 calls rural tourism a “brand product.” Rural tourism “comprises all forms of tourist activity in rural areas: people spending their vacations on the farm, folk events, folk handicraft, traditional farm life, ecotourism, and visits to national parks and reserves,” the document reads.

Rural tourism has substantial potential for development. The diversity of rural culture provides a host of opportunities to build attractive and competitive products. Rural Poland is one of Europe’s last surviving examples of traditional cultural models still in existence. This is the biggest selling point of the Polish countryside.

Many people go to the countryside because they want to experience its slow-paced lifestyle and become part of it. There are also health-related and environmental motives behind people’s decisions to visit the countryside. At the same time, rural tourism is becoming an alternative to mass tourism, of which contemporary tourists are increasingly tired. Rural Poland is about authenticity and individualism. The popularity of vacationing in the countryside is driven by people’s desire to return to the past—a time when many wealthy Poles built residences in the countryside and stayed there to enjoy nature, tranquillity and peace and quiet.

Natural and cultural values

Rural areas account for around 90 percent of Poland’s total land area. This shows what big potential for development they have, a potential that has been exploited for years in the context of tourism. “This potential is based on both natural and human assets. It is difficult to say which of the two is more important,” reads the Expert Analysis of the Potential of Rural Tourism Products in Poland and their Competitiveness on the Regional, National and Foreign Markets for Tourist Services, a report by the Polish Agency for the Development of Tourism drawn up for the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

A key competitive advantage of rural areas over urban ones is that they harmoniously combine natural and cultural values into a unique mixture of attractions and tourist products.

Experts from the Polish Agency for the Development of Tourism have analyzed the potential of rural tourism in individual regions and identified and catalogued tourist products. They selected 42 products with outstanding features in Poland’s 16 provinces. Considering all aspects associated with specific products, the experts have compiled a list of national flagship products that are worth promoting. The main criteria were the originality of a product and its potential in terms of image. The flagship products are sites called Uroczysko Zaborek, Małopolska Wieś Pachnąca Ziołami, Ziołowy Zakątek, Tatarska Jurta, Kapkazy – Szkoła Wrażliwości, Karczma Kaliska, Trzy Świerki, Kowalska Wioska, Wilcza Jama and Siedem Ogrodów.

The selected products are diverse and offer varied forms of spending one’s leisure time in an attractive way. The products are grouped into various categories, including “unique nature,” “vanishing and traditional occupations,” “wine-making traditions,” “culinary heritage,” “handicrafts,” “horses” and “herbs.”

“In the context of the foreign market, the biggest competitive advantage of the flagship products is their competitive price, which is a decisive factor for foreign tourists,” reads the report.

Rural Poland attracts foreigners

Germany accounts for the largest number of foreign tourists coming to Poland to spend time in the countryside. Visitors from Britain, the Netherlands, France, Russia and Ukraine are also interested in rural tourism. Many British people come to Poland because they appreciate the outstanding natural values of Poland’s rural areas.

The main draw for foreign tourists choosing Polish rural tourism products is value for money—a quality product with a relatively low price. What also draws foreign tourists to the Polish countryside is its traditions and original natural and cultural values, which are rare in today’s Europe. These factors determine the qualitative advantage of Polish rural tourism products on foreign markets.

The research conducted showed that the biggest problems in the development of rural tourism in Poland are associated with promotion and marketing as well as human resources.

The analysis of Poland’s provinces from the perspective of their potential for the development of rural tourism clearly shows that this form of tourism should be one of the priorities in the development of tourism in Poland, alongside options such as sightseeing in urban areas and business tourism.