chapter  11
13 Pages

Rural dimensions of the commercial home

ByELISABETH KASTENHOLZ, MARION SPARRER

In this chapter light will be shed on the ‘commercial home’ concept in the rural context in three European regions. If we understand a ‘commercial home’ as a type of accommodation where visitors pay to stay in private homes and where interaction takes place with a host and/or family usually living upon the premises (Lynch 2005c), this type of establishment is frequently encountered in the rural setting. The rural ‘commercial home’ may be a working farm, where the home

concept has to be confronted with two different types of economic activities simultaneously reflecting different lifestyles: tourism and agriculture. Rural tourism establishments must additionally be understood in the context of a wider local economic and social structure of a community, i.e. as potential development tools. This feature and the associated public expectations also impact on the type of ‘commercial homes’ and corresponding tourist experiences that characterise this tourism form and naturally go beyond the homebased accommodation experience. Rural tourism and the associated products, services and experiences differ from country to country, from region to region and from establishment to establishment. The aim of this chapter is to analyse the rural tourism commercial home

construct in three different countries/regions, namely in Portugal, Spain (Galicia/A Coruña) and Northern Germany (Frisia/Wittmund), attempting a comparison that will help clarify different concepts of the ‘commercial home’ and how it contributes to a more complex rural tourism product by providing quite distinct experiences to both visitors and hosts. The three countries/regions were selected for this study because of the different levels and directions of development of rural tourism present. The data about Galicia and Frisia result from Sparrer’s PhD research (2005) whilst the data on Portugal integrates results from several studies (Kastenholz 2002; Ribeiro 2003; Silva 2006; Silvano 2005). Sparrer’s (2005) qualitative research project was undertaken in 2002 and 2003, and included in-depth interviews conducted with the owners of rural accommodations in Wittmund and A Coruña, as well as a survey of guests (mainly domestic tourists) during the summer of 2002, aiming at eliciting

opinions, perceptions and motivations of demand and supply. Kastenholz’s (2002) study was a survey financed by the Regional Coordination Commission of North Portugal (CCRN), with the objective of analysing the tourist market in rural areas in the region. Through a carefully chosen cluster-sampling procedure, conducted at diverse attraction sites and tourist facilities at different points in time (88 per cent of the tourists were directly addressed), a total of 2,280 valid responses were obtained. The sample was controlled for a balanced spread between the sub-regions, high and low season and the national versus foreign tourist market. The most important foreign nationalities were the German, British, French, Dutch and Spanish markets. Respondents tended towards the younger age ranges and higher educational levels. The main purpose of this chapter is to analyse the rural tourism realities

encountered in the three studied regions, giving particular attention to the host-guest relationship that is typically associated with the rural tourism experience and the degree to which it is valued and sought by both hosts and guests. Additionally, the degree to which this relationship extends the homecontext to further include the guests’ integration into the rural community is analysed. Differences encountered are discussed, in light of the diverse types and degrees of development of the rural tourism business in each region, shaped by distinct legal, social and economic contexts.