June 6, 2003
Tourism expert: Driving trend to rural tourism
A Purdue University tourism expert says more tourists will drive their cars to country locations this summer.
Liping A. Cai, associate professor of hospitality and tourism management and director of Purdues Tourism & Hospitality Research Center, has been studying the trend toward rural tourism for several years.
"There is more appeal for rural travel destinations now than two or three years ago, according to both Indiana research and trends from the Travel Industry Association of America," Cai said. "The trend increased even before 9/11, and it has accelerated since then."
Contrary to current perceptions, rural tourism is not just for nostalgic seniors, Cai said.
"The interested age group is getting younger, and the groups are getting larger," he said. "This suggests that more families are choosing rural destinations."
Cai defines the rural tourism trend in classic economic terms.
"There is growth on the demand side on the part of vacationers," Cai said. "On the supply side, rural communities are seeing country attractions as viable economic alternatives.
"Rural tourism has always been there, but now we're starting to see more interest on the part of travelers."
Cai started researching the rural tourism phenomenon in 1997 in New Mexico. This year he conducted surveys of visitors to rural areas in Indiana's Grant and DeKalb counties. Complete results are being tabulated and will be available in September and March 2004.
"The trend we're seeing now is rural tourism building on existing programs," he said. "So, for example, if there's a winery in an area, rural areas can market bed and breakfast establishments and farm tours."
CONTACT: Cai, (765) 494-4739, (765) 464-2088 (home), firstname.lastname@example.org.