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A virtual workshop on Innovative Business Models for Rural Tourism was held by NPO, Pakistan, and APO Secretariat, 12–14 October, to promote innovative, transformative approaches to the development of tourism in rural destinations.
The agritourism sector, a key component of rural tourism, was projected to increase from USD69.24 billion in 2019 to USD117.37 billion in 2027, according to Fortune Business Insights in 2020. Despite the pandemic’s negative impact on this projected growth, the global tourism industry is anticipated to rebound through new government initiatives to boost rural tourism growth. Blessed with an abundance of natural and cultural resources, there are many growth opportunities for rural tourism in the Asia-Pacific region. However, the region faces challenges including establishing sustainable businesses with limited infrastructure and financing, attracting and retaining travelers amid competition from other destinations, and adapting to the digital era and a drastically changed postpandemic environment. In addition, many rural communities lack experience in and knowledge of developing unique solutions to overcome these challenges, and they rely heavily on initiatives by the government and tourism industry. Therefore, capacity development at the rural community level is required.
Twenty-seven participants from 12 APO members attended the virtual workshop, along with resource persons from Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Saudi Arabia who shared global perspectives from the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and policies and best practices from Indonesia, Pakistan, and the Philippines. Topics covered included innovative business models in rural tourism and key success factors for adopting innovations to develop sustainable, productive, inclusive communities for rural tourism. Group discussions on how these learning points could be applied among APO members indicated future paths for more productive rural tourism benefiting local communities and national economies.