The recent pandemic of Covid-19 has influenced our society and lives in many ways. Among many negative impacts we could have observed in this period there was also one important, rather unexpected result – we could have seen the direct impact of our behaviour on nature, concretely the number of travels which significantly lowered during this period. The lowered number of travels at this time caused the whole tourism industry has suffered losses. But now it is tourism that is expected to play a large role in boosting consumption to provide such necessary help to revive the economy. Contrary to a linear economy, a circular economy employs reuse, sharing, repair, refurbishment, remanufacturing and recycling, reducing the use of resource inputs and the creation of waste, pollution and carbon emissions. The circular economy aims to keep products, materials, equipment and infrastructure in use for longer, thus improving the productivity of these resources.
While we realize the need for finding harmony between the ecological impacts and the need for travels, there is one area of tourism which offers the answer – domestic rural tourism. It has shown its potential to attract more tourists, people who are looking for a more individual, healthy and natural lifestyle while avoiding overseas travels.
Many rural communities are under economic and social pressure for various well-known reasons, but there are also new and exciting opportunities for rural residents. Particularly this kind of tourism offers visitors experiences also related to a wide range of products generally linked to nature-based activities, agriculture, rural lifestyle and specific culture, angling and sightseeing. Based on our previous research, review of the literature and the current situation due to the pandemic crisis, seniors can play an important role in the revival of rural tourism, but they need to have upgraded competences and skills in entrepreneurial and smart village aspects.
SMART VILLAGE – DEVELOPING RURAL TOURISM BUSINESSES THROUGH CIRCULAR ECONOMY AND SOCIAL INNOVATION project can be a great opportunity for seniors to earn their own living in the economic crisis generated by the pandemic period, to keep their minds engaged and challenged and to stay active in the community. The project offers new innovative teaching and learning approaches in the form of a research study and best practices collection, four multiple handbooks, a training kit and a videogame as tools for acquiring entrepreneurial competences in rural tourism.
It has the ambition to reach a minimum of 900 economically disadvantaged low-skilled and low-qualified senior adults, more exactly for persons living in deprived rural areas from at least 9 European local communities. The project teaches the seniors how to create their own new businesses in villages by using innovative local and cultural tourism opportunities based on social innovation best practices and circular economy principles.