At the moment, in Europe, the rural tourism is concerned with some problems such as: sustainable regional development, a balanced path regarding the economic development and environment protection, establishing rural policies which go beyond the agricultural dimension and integrate all the problems of rural areas. The agriculture is not limited only to ensuring the food for the population; it must contribute to the development of rural areas, and also, it represent an indispensable support for the rural tourism. There is a strong relationship between agriculture and environment: it does not exist rural environment without agriculture and agriculture cannot be done in a ruined environment. In Romania, rural tourism is an economic activity concerning the development of tourism in rural areas. We can appreciate that it exists a strong connection among tourism and other activities of local economy, especially the agriculture. In Romania rural tourism took place from a long time but occasionally. Until 1990, due to the restriction to accommodate foreign tourists in private houses, rural tourism was ignored. After 1990 the rural tourism revigorated many investment being directed toward the improvement of the houses. In the year 2002, in the accommodation structures from rural Romania 137 000 tourist spent their vacation, from which 20 000 foreign tourists. The motivations varied: the beauty of Romanian landscape, the return to nature, the knowledge of tradition, Romanian culture, practicing certain sports (hunting, fishing, mountain climbing). Rural tourism în Romania represent a mean to capitalize the rural environment with its agricultural, tourist, human and economc potential. For this reason Romania must regard the rural tourism in its policies toward sustainable rural development.
1. The Evolution of the rural tourism in Romania
Currently Europe is dealing with several problems, among which rural tourism has a great importance: providing a well regional development, guaranteeing a balance between economic development and environment` protection, creating some rural policies, which should contain all the problems related to the rural space. Though agriculture nowadays cannot be limited to providing people with food, it must contribute to the rural space development and to constitute the support of rural tourism. Rural tourism represents one of the best ways to combine tourism demands with environmental protection and sustainable development  .
Rural tourism is a new phenomenon and an old one at the same time. Rural tourism represents one of the first ways of tourism manifestation in Romania. It was applied since early times, along with traveling, horse or nautical tourism. During its historical evolution, tourism has had ups and downs, but it has never disappeared. By late 20th century, rural tourism has had a spontaneous and periodical character and has made itself noticed through some participation in a series of events in rural, traditional communities near abbies or churches. But today, we can see a new gusto of rural tourism. The motivations which make tourists choose certain boarding house are the following: the wish to return to nature, to a traditional way of living and habits, the lack of tense programs, the price conditions, the quality of the human element.
Compared to other types of tourism, considered to be the modern ones (business tourism and cultural tourism) rural tourism has had in the late `90s a new stage of development. In Romania, there isn’t just a high tourist potential, there’s also a great experience in the field, the first tourist villages were organized in 1967-1968. In 1974 foreign tourists’ accommodation in private housing and tourist villages was unavailable for international tourism  . After 1990 the interest in rural tourism revives. A series of associations and organizations were created which through their objectives were willing to contribute to tourism expansion in the rural areas: The Romanian Federation of Montane Development (1990), Romanian Agro tourism Agency (1995) and National Agency for Ecological and Cultural Tourism (1994).
2. The rural tourism and agro-tourism
Although it seems simple the notion of “rural tourism”, which is elaborated in the rural environment, the definition does not include the complexity of this activity with different developing forms and ways in different countries.
The term of “rural tourism” has various meanings that differ from one country to another.
In Germany the practice of rural tourism leaded to the conclusion that “a guest for a vacation brings more profit than any other activity during the year”.
In France, the tourism in the rural environment has old traditions which are achieved at a high level of organization, diversification, and promotion.
In Italy the rural tourism can be met under the form of “green vacations” and has as main component the agro-tourism.
In Denmark the tourist product is known under the name of “active vacation”, and the tourist services are offered in houses at farms and camping.
In Hungary it is used the term of “village tourism”, indicating that the only activities and services offered in villages are included in this type of tourism, and meaning: accommodation at low prices, involvement in agricultural activities or in other types of local activities.
In Slovenia the most important form of rural tourism is the tourism at farms of different families, where the guests live either with the farmer family, or in guest’s houses, but visit the farm for meals or to explore the farm’s yard.
In Holland the rural tourism means, especially, farm camping, where the majority of services that are offered are bounded by routes like: cycling, riding horses.
In Greece the rural tourism means accommodation in rooms that are furnished in traditional style, with traditional breakfast – most of the times being prepared with home made products.
In Romania the rural tourism has been practiced since ever, but spontaneous and accidentally, and supposed the accommodation at citizens from rural places. Until 1990, because of the interdiction of hosting foreign citizens in private houses, the rural tourism was practically ignored. After 1990, the tourist activity in the rural areas has known a new start, fact explained by the foundation of the organizations that are proposing the development of tourism in the rural environment. So, in 1995 appears The Romanian Agency for Agro-tourism, which has as main purpose the alignment of the Romanian agro-tourism to the international one. In 1994 appears ANTREC, nongovernmental organization, non-profit member of the European Federation of Rural Tourism, which now has 30 branches in the country and totalize over 2500 tourist and agro-tourist pensions, with 10500 accommodations places.
In most of the countries the complementary activities, meaning: restaurants, recreations facilities, the organization of cultural activities and entertainment in national places-are only at the beginning. From this point of view the rural tourism is a particular form of tourism, more complex, including primary services (accommodation, food, transportation) and auxiliary (entertainment) as well as economical activity, usually agricultural practiced by the hostess of the tourists ( productive activities, of processing the agricultural products in the farms and their commercialization to the tourists or through the commercial channels).
Rural tourism includes a variety of ways of accommodation, of activities, events, festivities, sports and entertainment, all of them taking place in a typical rural environment. Involving all these facts, a more exact definition of the term of “rural tourism” that can be used in a unitary way on the entire European continent, is confronted with many specific issues. “Rural tourism is a concept that includes all the tourist activities that take place in the rural environment”. Or, “the rural tourism is the tourist activity organized and leaded by the local populations and is based on a tied connection with the surrounding, natural and human environment.” This definition, considered more comprehensive shows off the rural tourism from the tourist activity that takes place in the littoral areas, in the urbane ones and in those destined for winter sports, places where constantly, tourists, as well as the nature of their activities, exclude any significant relations with the local population, which constitutes the surrounding human environment.
Lacking any other adequate definition of the rural tourism, accepted in the European Union territory and outside them, the term that is used is that of “green tourism”, symbolic color, in order to distinguish this form of tourism from the others, as: “white tourism”(winter sports), “blue tourism”(seaside holidays) and so called “the tourism of the lights”(the urban tourism).
Some authors consider the rural tourism and agro-tourism, different notions, and for others they have the same content.Both types of tourism have as displaying area the rural environment, and through the included activities generate the tourist circulation and supplementary incomes for those who perform tourist services. The two types of tourism are the result, on one hand, of the modern human behavior, anxious for holidays as original as possible, of returning to nature, and, on the other hand, constitute possible alternatives to re-launch of rural areas in the perspective of durable developing of rural areas. Both rural tourism as agro- tourism are based on the rural area, on the citizens and products specific to that area, which have to be adapted to the demands of the tourist market and without standardizing the offer, they have to arrange receiving structures at the level of the tourist demands, to valorize the Romanian cooking traditions.
Rural tourism has a bigger content, has permanent character and has a heterogeneous receiving structure (hotels, inns, motels, vacation villages), the other components of the tourist product (gastronomy, handcraft) are common to the agro tourism from the respective area. For agro-tourism, the tourist offer is composed by tourist and agro-tourist pensions that are individualized by the comfort category, the natural environment, the local gastronomy, the performer of rural tourist services (the farmer), who through psycho-social features, culture, education, personalizes the tourist product created for commercialization.
Agro-tourism is considered a more restricted concept, which includes different forms of tourism bounded by agricultural activities and/or by agricultural arrangements. This particular form of the rural tourism is organized by farmers, usually as a secondary activity, agriculture remaining the main occupation and source of income. The rural tourism regards all forms of tourism practiced in the rural area, meaning activities outside (riding horses, fishing, hunting, walks or riding a bike, health tourism), knowing tourism (churches, fortress, different historical relics), of discovering the natural environment (flora, fauna), knowing and understanding local cultures (folklore, popular traditions), gastronomic tourism etc.
In the specialty literature, Romanian and foreign, by using the notions of agro-tourism, is better expressed the content, meaning a complementary economical activity of the agriculture in a rural locality. It can be shown that, the agro-tourism has certain features which make it different from the traditional, classic tourism, such as:
The tourist consumption takes place in the rural environment, where essential are: the quality of the pension and receiving services at farmers, the knowing of the natural, human and cultural environment as well as the originality of the tourist products;
The tourist offer is authentic, different, organized and leaded by farmers;
It is an economical activity complementary to the agricultural exploitation and not an alternative or a substitution of this;
It offers to the population with low income the possibility to rest and to strengthen, of spending the free time in vacations or week-ends in the rural environment, with cultural-educational values and a specific hospitality;
It doesn’t requires big investments for decorations of tourist infrastructure and superstructure or for other specific things;
The big tourist agglomerations from the littoral or from watering or mountain stations are being avoid;
Is a tourism in which the specific of the offer is divert and of a big dissemination in space;
Is not compatible with the ordinary tourism.
From the facts presented above, it results that the agro-tourism, through its particularities, differs from the classic tourism being a component of the rural tourism and a possibility of developing the rural areas in tied connection with agriculture. The rural tourism and agro-tourism constitute a way of an integral valuation of the rural environment with its agricultural, tourist, human and technical-economical potential. For this reason Romania must join, in the future, the rural tourism, and especially, agro-tourism in the politics of durable local development.
3. The effects of rural tourism
The development of tourism in the rural area has the following effects:
Rural tourism cannot be considered to be a way of sustaining the development of rural society. For many years agriculture has been the primary element in the Romanian rural area. The variations that took place after the Fund Land Law no. 18/1991 conducted to the crumbling of the agricultural fields, the country average reaching 2,5 ha. Under such conditions, keeping a rural world with its best economic, social and cultural sides means reorientation to other economic activities. From this point of view, rural tourism and especially agro-tourism can constitute a fundamental support for avoiding fields` degradation and maintaining a certain socio-economical status.
Rural tourism can contribute to the preservation of the viability and the stability in the rural area. The depopulation phenomenon, which manifests itself through youth departures, the abandonment of the old houses can be stopped through tourist activities meant to transform this fragile environment into a dynamic one through some reforming strategies of the Romanian village. Rural tourism seems to be the right instrument to revive rural areas by keeping or even creating new jobs, having in view the diversity of jobs, a favorable financial level accomplished by farms together with elements such as: preserving nature, landscape, keeping tradition.
Rural tourism can become an alternative to agriculture. The development of tourism in the rural area can have two forms:
a) The tourism which replaces the unprofitable agricultural activity, so therefore all tourist resources in those areas must be exploited (it was the way mountain and seaside tourism was born and developed);
b) The tourism as complementary to agriculture (agro-tourism) which implies agriculture being the dominant area, and its tourist potential being exploited for the benefit of this activity.
Rural tourism represents a source of income for the farmers. Agro-tourism, as a form of rural tourism, is being organized by the farmers, usually as secondary activity, with agriculture remaining the primary concern and source of income. Through the diversification of agriculture-complementary tourist activities agriculture can become profitable and can generate new family jobs, taking into account the seasons.
Better use of local resources. Selling products obtained in the agricultural process can improve by using some shorter distribution channels or by selling them direct to tourists. In the last few years new ways of processing, promoting and selling agricultural products developed through classic or specific circuits.
Rural tourism often offers conditions for the development of infrastructure, which then contributes to the growth of some economic activities in rural areas. Growing opportunities for social contact between the residents (that usually have a solitary life in their communities) can be considered a benefit to the development of rural tourism.
Besides its economic side, rural tourism has a pronounced affective character – it is not an offer to consume; in developing and implementing it in our country we must start from tradition and surroundings, which should be looked upon as a irreplaceable capital, giving value and pleasure to spare time.
Rural tourism represents a multifactor activity, it is not only a visit to a farm or a local residence, it is not only rest, it is also the best source of health and stress-free therapy. Rural tourism is mainly focused on dynamic, nature loving people, and ecological tourism is focused on sport, hunting and fishing fans. This type of tourism offers freedom and independence to every individual. Seen from a different angle, rural tourism, in its pure form, can be looked upon as that type of tourism that has the following characteristics:
located in rural area;
functionally rural, meaning that it is built upon rural region characteristics: small factories, open spaces, contact with nature, cultural inheritance, traditional societies and practices;
rurally scaled, this meaning that buildings, settlements and fluxes have reduced sizes;
has a traditional character;
locally controlled and developed for long term welfare in the community;
varies according to the complexity of rural area.
4. Rural tourist structures in Romania
The tourist village is a rural, picturesque, well-constituted placement settled in a natural, unpolluted area, tradition retentive, with a rich historical past which goes beyond the politico-administrative, economical, social and cultural function, is temporary accomplish the function of receiving and hosting the tourists for spending a vacation on a undetermined period of time  . The tourist village has the role to put in evidence the specific of the localities, having as purpose the adaptation of some promoting strategies of the most frequent forms of tourism. This must be done, also taking into consideration the main geographical, economical, social characteristics, but also the main motivation and options of the categories of tourists, who attend the respective locality. The implementation of some specific strategies in the organization and function domain of the tourist village are absolutely necessary in any area. This, due to the reason, that every rural locality constitute an entity with personal particularities and specific activities, which has to be identify and value as efficient as possible, also from the tourism point of view.
In a developing strategy of an area, is imposed the knowing and the framing of the tourist villages by types, due to the particularities of every type of tourist village. It can be delimited  :
The ethnographic-folkloric tourist villages, which can be identify in the territorial perimeters, where exists a traditional way of dressing, architecture, furniture and interior design specific to the area, existing, also, popular music and choreography, which are imposing as essential features of the respective village.
The tourist villages of artistic and handicraft creation, where the tourists interest is especially for handicraft tourist creation and also from their desire of acquiring these creation directly from the source. Through an adequate strategy, in these areas, can be done the passing from a circulation tourist to a vacation one; in this way it can be offered the possibility for the tourists to be initialized by popular artists renowned in popular archaic technique and art (icons made on glass or wood, sculpture made in wood or stone, ceramic, popular confections and seams etc.).
The climacteric and landscape architecture tourist villages, whose predominant characteristics are the picturesque natural area and the geographical position, isolated from the agglomerate centers and the big arteries of circulation. Also for this types of villages can be adopted investing strategies, through which to be modernized the peasants houses, so to correspond to the tourists demands.
The tourist villages of hunting interested and forest fruits harvest, for the north areas or even in the mountainous regions. The local population can organize forms of hunting entertainment. In this case, the rural tourism strategies are spliced with the ecological ones, of keeping the flora and fauna from the area, next to the launch of culinary-gastronomical services made from hunt and forest fruits.
The viticulture and fruits growing tourist villages are placed in the areas that include basins and centers specialized in animals and fruits growing. The most intense tourist activities are in the harvesting time of the year, when the tourist can be involved in the effectively harvest festival, but also the offering of fruits, grapes and other goods prepared from them.
The pastoral villages are represented by those rural localities, where the main preoccupation of the villagers is the growing of the ovine and bovines, impressing the tourist with the menus based on dairy products. Can be organized, depending on the season, shepherd’s meals and specific and traditional feasts. It can be outlined strategies regarding the tourist and economical aspect (of developing the growing of animals in these areas) and socio-professional (of maintaining the profession of shepherd, which is very gainful in these areas). This argumentation is being made also for the reason that, lately, the textile industry request for animal fur has grow very much, the request being often satisfied with imported quantities of fur.
The tourist villages for sports practice represent the areas which has very good conditions, especially for the winter sports practice. The tourist’s categories, which can be more or less initialized, are anxious to practice them, helped by the instructors formed by the local population, in these villages existing special places from where you can rent the sport equipment. The developing strategies of this type of village must be correlated with the developing of the local infrastructure, especially of the communication ways.
The tourist villages and the accommodation areas specific to the religious forms of pilgrimage, are materialized by the position in those localities around the monasteries or even by the existence of accommodation places inside the locals of religious cult. In every area of the country exists monasteries and hermitages with historical-religious traditions. The strategies that can amplify this pilgrimage must be based on the encouragement of the investments for the recover of the monastic constructions and the tuning of agricultural lands to encourage the economical activities.
The rural tourism has, as results from the typology of the tourist villages, multiple motivations: returning to nature, knowing the tradition, the culture, taking care of your health, sports practice, the consumption of fresh fruits and aliments.
With all these, the rural tourism in Romania, at present, has a modest dimension.
5. Sustainable development of rural tourism in Romania
In Romania rural tourism has registered an extensive, dissipated development, without an integrated approach, involving all categories of resources, and its target was in most cases the internal tourist rather than international tourist. This led to many small investments in the territory, the local tourist products being diversified, but independent, without a major impact on the tourism market. The inconsistency and the temporary, fragmented characteristics of this tourist products, in accordance with the small possibilities of agro-tourist boarding houses owners, concludes versus an unclear shape and dimension of rural tourist product in Romania. Rural tourism in Romania is still in its early stages, in this moment being necessary a strategy to re-launch the tourist product before the expansion and development stages. The development of rural tourism in Romania poses specific problems (negative aspects):
untaught modification in the built environment, by extending the accommodation space, without taking into account rural architecture or features;
changes in the social and cultural lives of the villages; kitsch entrance in the rural life as a result of interference with urban civilization can distort or modify the local traditions;
traffic congestion in rural areas especially in the most visited destinations;
changes in rural traditions and customs as the villagers adopt the urban lifestyle;
the insufficient diversification of services and the lack of complementary services, significantly reduce the number of tourists;
artistic programs (festivities, ceremonies, performing traditional works, folk festivals) are just being offered occasionally and only in case of larger tourist groups. These specific hospitality manifestation should instead be used as segmentation tools, aimed at targeting, for example, foreign tourists;
merchandising local souvenirs is underdeveloped activity; it is more likely that, a traditional ceramic feature or an in-house made blouse with traditional models on it, to be found in major commercial centers in the cities than on the village they were produced in;
The main advantages that rural tourism can deliver to the rural communities in Romania are:
an increase in the local revenues, both at the level of community and at the level of rural families;
modernization of local infrastructure as the result of the intensification in tourist circulation;
expanding rural revenues by direct selling of the agri-products to the visitors, selling of a crafted handy-made articles;
maintaining some economic activities in remote rural areas, preserving the traditional manifestation and religious festivities, these mobilizing the local inhabitants to conserve them. A virtuous circle is therefore built.
contributes to the education and training of local villagers, expanding the knowledge horizons of the rural population, facilitate the cultural exchanges among city and village, stimulates the overall regional growth.
Synthesizing the above-presented issues, we can identify positive and negative aspects of rural tourism in Romania  (table no. 3).
Table no. 3
Rural Tourism in Romania
Social and economic effects
Influence on natural and built environment
– source of complementary revenues, leads to new jobs creation;
– encourage collective actions at community level;
– stabilization of population in areas affected by depopulation;
– multiple effects in other fields of activities
– preserve the local culture;
– ensure a local pride feeling, self appreciation and identity with traditions;
– preserve the historical sites and other objectives important for the local community;
– utilization of abandoned properties;
– local price inflation;
– possible population growth as a result of economic development;
– labor market changes structure;
– local real estate market is affected;
– demand is seasonally
– local culture might be lost în contact with the more “powerful” urban culture;
– a distortion of local habits and folklore, by trying to present them before an auditorium
– habitat could get affected;
– water pollution, garbage accumulation, gas emissions, etc.
– a possible crisis of the living space, more rooms being offered to the tourists
The development of rural tourism must be done in accordance with the new rural realities and taking into account the technological revolution. Globalization of economy brings transformations that the rural tourism must be aware and it must look for the new opportunities offered  . Rural life is changing, the transformations take place at a faster rate, competition is growing, thou more opportunities exists but they are harder to capitalize. The rural environment can no longer be the millstone of a national economy, the villagers must operate that mentality shift allowing them to ensure a sustainable development for their area. The “new economy”, the concept used today to express technological advance, the open economies, market liberalization, brings a few changes also at the rural perspective level (table no. 4).
Table no. 4
Old rural realities
Internal markets are important;
The ability to exploit natural resource is important for the local and national economy and this determines the local specialization: arable field, mineral resources
Rural areas are somehow specialized, but many are similar at the level of characteristics and economic functions performed
The inhabitants of rural areas have little formal education and less opportunities to find a job than the urban inhabitants
Urban labor market can easily absorb the unqualified workforce surplus from rural areas
Transportation costs are high, access to the rural areas is difficult even for internal residents
Capital markets are segmented, rural areas obtain resources internally
Communications are expensive and relatively slow, limiting the coordination
Rural areas compete one another internally
New rural realities
External markets are important;
The ability to exploit natural resources is not very important for the global economy, the skills, knowledge and information are the main factors determining the success of the area
Rural areas are specialized, few rural areas are similar at the level of characteristics and economic functions performed
The inhabitants of rural areas have little formal education and less opportunities to find a job than the urban inhabitants
Urban labor market can not absorb the unqualified workforce surplus from rural areas
Transportation costs are low, access to the rural areas is facilitated even at international level
Global capital markets are integrated, rural areas must attract resource from international markets
Communications are fast and cheap, facilitating coordination
Rural areas compete one another internally and at the international level with other rural areas from developed on developing countries
The changes presented above have a major impact on rural communities in Romania. The implementation of high scale rural tourist projects imply that the inhabitants will poses specific knowledge of project management, marketing, finance, even thou a certain gap will remain among rural inhabitants and urban citizens. The rural communities must do everything in their power to reduce t