Down the Exclusive Route of Rural Tourism
BRAZIL IS ONE OF THE COUNTRIES PUSHING STRONGLY FOR THIS TRAVEL SEGMENT. ITS AWESOME SCENERY, ITS LAVISH NATURE AND ITS LARGE EXTENSION MAKE IT AN IDEAL DESTINATION TO BOTH GIVE IT A TRY AND ENHANCE IT
BY: LAURA RODRÍGUEZ LEÓN, LICENCIADA EN TURISMO PHOTOS: EXCELENCIAS ARCHIVES
The aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic in the world implies a series of changes in people and their travel decisions that must be taken into account in order to achieve the success of a new, safe, diversified and sustainable tourism. It is a reality that postcovid tourists have become even more demanding. In addition to comfort, quality services and enjoying their vacations as much as possible as they did in the past, they are also looking for other factors, such as health, social distance and freedom, respect for schedules, security measures. And they are doing all this much with much more deeply-rooted awareness of sustainability than they had in the past. The upward trend in domestic and nature travel is already here to stay, with uncrowded destinations enjoying greater prominence over large cities, and niches associated with the concept of sustainable tourism, such as rural tourism, agrotourism, ecotourism and wine tourism, stepping into the limelight. On the other hand, customers are willing to shell out more for private services, exclusive products and advantages that reduce contact with other guests or passengers. There is talk that this growing need will make open spaces a luxury, and that premium brands that provide soughtafter exclusivity and privacy will take the lead in the recovery process. No wonder that the 33rd edition of the Gramado Tourism Festival (Festuris) -an event that brings together professionals from Brazil and other countries to foster tourism destinations and products- is promoting the potential of rural and sustainable tourism as a growing segment within the new normality, associated with what has been called the "neoluxury". In early October, the organizers of the event highlighted that over 80 percent of the exhibition space in the area dedicated to the luxury segment was sold out; a clear sign of the brands' commitment to this trend. As a matter of fact, Brazil is one of the countries that in recent years has been pushing strongly for stepping up the development of both rural and ecological tourism. Its awesome scenery, its lavish nature and its large extension make it an ideal destination to both give it a try and enhance it. Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo or Minas Gerais are the Brazilian cities that stand out the most in this activity. A NICHE THAT’S ALL THE RAGE Rural tourism is defined as an activity that takes place in a rural or natural area, usually in small towns or outside the urban center; the facilities are usually old and, once rehabilitated, are normally run by the families themselves. Agrotourism, ecotourism and wine tourism are some of its top niches, and hacienda hotels are increasingly catching on as they allow visitors to melt with the environment, learn about the productive activities and splunge themselves into the history and culture of the various enclaves, while enjoying such activities as horseback riding, cycling and hiking. When it comes to farm hotels in Brazil, one of the most emblematic is Monte Verde, in Minas Gerais. There, nature is at its very best, boasting its most pristine state and allowing people of all ages to revel in a welcoming and challenging experience, since it is located at a staggering 1,500-plus meters above sea level -something that many consider an ideal location for extreme sports. In the southeastern region of the country, the so-called Coffee Cycle deserves a mention, made up of old farms located in the municipalities of the Paraíba Valley, such as Valença, Vassouras, and Barra de Pira. These farmhouses harbor magnificent constructions of great architectural and historical value, whose visit is considered rural tourism to the extent that the property allows people to get to know and imagine what rural life was actually like back in the day. It is by far one of the best experiences to get in touch with a significant part of Brazil's 19th century history. Another privileged site is Atibaia, in Sao Paulo, where visitors have at their disposal a number of farms to work with organic products. The itinerary of visit is extensive and covers the most unexpected places, such as the distilleries of homemade cachaça or a glimpse at the flower plantations. From this state it is also possible to visit other cities for rural tourism. Some good cases in point are São Roque, Amparo, São Pedro, Monte Alegre do Sul, Cunha, Joanópolis, São José dos Campos, Pindamonhangaba, Santo Antonio do Pinhal, Itú or São Bento do Sapucaí. Itú is the closest to the city of São Paulo (103 km) and Cunha is the farthest, standing at 222 km away. A SEGMENT LADEN WITH HUGE OPPORTUNITIES Rural tourism, as a new and promising activity, is launching new challenges to Brazilian society. In a country known worldwide for its paradisiacal beaches, tropical climate and abundant waters, the countryside has never attracted the attention of tourism entrepreneurs. The isolation and precariousness of the facilities in rural properties made them simply unattractive. Other pending issues are the rescue of the extensive historical and cultural heritage of the Brazilian countryside and the need to ensure adequate infrastructure in potentially viable locations for tourism: accessible roads, electricity, connectivity or hospital systems. Meeting all these requirements means promoting a radical transformation in the country's rural environment. Precisely, this "return" to the countryside as a global trend has opened up a window of opportunities for rural tourism in the South American nation, which from the public and private management is already beginning to pay off. For instance, the Brazilian Agency for the Promotion of International Tourism (Embratur) is conducting a hefty campaign to tout this segment, which provides the distance required by the current demand, considering it of great importance within the framework of the "new normality". In Rio Grande do Norte, some actions and programs are already being implemented, such as the Programa Nacional de Turismo na Agricultura Familiar (PNTRAF), which supports family farmers in the development of tourism activities. Another important action is the Rede de Turismo Rural na Agricultura Familiar (RED TRAF). This is an instrument for promoting the policies of the Brazilian Ministry of Agrarian Development for tourism in family farming, designed through a network based on themes, such as the environment, culture and the economy. With this articulation, the TRAF NETWORK has come up with rural tourism routes in some municipalities, like the Tilapia Circuit (municipality of Ceará-mirim), the Tapuios Circuit (municipality of Sítio Novo), the Catuense Circuit (municipality of Canguaretama), the Nascente Circuit of the Piquiri River (municipality of Espírito Santo), the Volcanic Vale Circuit (municipality of Cerro Corá), the Tropical Circuit (municipality of São José do Mipubú), the Serra da Bica Circuit (municipality of Monte das Gameleras) and the Sertão Cabugi Circuit (municipality of Caicó).