Rural spaces are no longer associated purely with agricultural commodity production but are seen as locations for the stimulation of new socioeconomic activity, often incorporating tourism, leisure, speciality food production and consumption and e-commerce. Within the context of debates about integrated and territorial approaches to rural development in Europeâ��s â��lagging regionsâ��, this paper introduces the notion of â��Integrated Rural Tourismâ�� (IRT) and describes the various methods of research used in an EU research project that forms the basis of this special edition. IRT is theorised as tourism explicitly linked to the economic, social, cultural, natural and human structures of the localities in which it takes place. The argument is that IRT â�� as a theory and approach â�� leads to more sustainable tourism (broadly conceived) than other forms of tourism because it creates powerful network connections between social, cultural, economic and environmental resources. The notion of IRT is also intended to open up practical ways of thinking about improving linkages between tourism and local and regional resources, activities, products and communities in the light of changing trends in tourism demand.
The final, definitive version of this article has been published in the Journal, Tourism Geographies, 9 (4), 2007, © Informa Plc