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How Rural Tourism Is Changing Traditional Andalucía

Dec 18, 2007
After the Costa del Sol, the traditional mass tourist destination in Southern Spain started to become saturated many travellers started to look for alternative destinations. This change in tourism behaviour was not only motivated by the saturation, but also the increasing degradation of their natural setting of the Mediterranean coastline.

Soon the rural inland areas of traditional destinations like Malaga or Almeria started to notice an increase in the number of inquiries for places to stay. The local government of Andalucía saw in rural tourism an opportunity to reactivate the economy of small inland villages and hamlets which had been suffering from a decreasing population due to the lack of opportunities for the young people. Traditionally the rural areas of Andalucía solely depended on the extensive agriculture which generates very few man-hours of work during the year.

With the help of Spanish and EU funding many villagers started to restore abandoned houses and converted them into country houses, modern cottages with ancient style or traditional fincas and haciendas. Like in many inland areas the rural population of Andalucía is fairly experienced constructors and most of the properties have been converted into country houses and holiday homes of high standards and quality.

However the spectacular growth of the demand for rural tourism in the late '90 has already been caught up by an ever more spectacular increase in the offer. If it was not difficult to have an occupation of 50 - 60% % in the early days, today many owners of rural country houses and inland holiday homes in Andalucía have great difficulties to even get close to these numbers.

The mayor reason for this is the lack of professionalism and experience in marketing the holiday homes. Most owners of country houses in Andalucía have no specific studies in the filed of rural tourism and do not speak any other languages apart from Spanish, which makes it difficult to communicate with foreign customers in the pre-reservation stage. It also makes it very hard to get in touch with tour operators abroad who specialise in rural tourism in Andalucía.

The mayor part of the country houses in the provinces of Granada, Malaga or Jaen is empty almost all year around, except for the Spanish school holidays. Foreign tourists, who travel outside the traditional Spanish holidays, can find exceptional good offers for beautiful country houses of high quality, many of them in fantastic natural settings, like the Alpujarras, the Ronda Mountains or the Axarquia in Malaga.

We have seen cases of astute owners with knowledge of foreign languages who have to deal with an overbooking situation during many weeks of the year and others, less fortunate but with country houses of exceptional quality and high standards, who have vacancies for these same weeks. These cases can normally be found in the more remote villages of Granada, Malaga, Jaen or Almeria where there is a bigger lack of professional marketers.

Some of the most beautiful natural areas in Spain, like the Alpujarras, the Valle del Lecrín or the Axarequia still offer holiday bargains in select country houses and fincas, even during the periods considered high season.
About the Author
With more than 20 years of experience in the travel industry Rudi van der Zalm is the founder of one of Europe's most popular websites for holiday homes in rural Spain . A wide selection of country houses and lodgings can be found at www.rural-tour.com.
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