Next Article in Journal
Effect of Large Wild Herbivore Populations on the Forage-Livestock Balance in the Source Region of the Yellow River
Next Article in Special Issue
Natural Capital, Domestic Product and Proximate Causes of Economic Growth: Uruguay in the Long Run, 1870–2014
Previous Article in Journal
How Human Activities Affect Heavy Metal Contamination of Soil and Sediment in a Long-Term Reclaimed Area of the Liaohe River Delta, North China
Previous Article in Special Issue
Income, Economic Structure and Trade: Impacts on Recent Water Use Trends in the European Union
Font Type:
Arial Georgia Verdana
Font Size:
Aa Aa Aa
Line Spacing:
Column Width:

Social Perception of Rural Tourism Impact: A Case Study

Department of Psychology and Sociology, University of Zaragoza, Pza. Constitución s/n, 22001 Huesca, Spain
Department of Accountancy and Finance, University of Zaragoza, Pza. Constitución s/n, 22001 Huesca, Spain
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2018, 10(2), 339;
Submission received: 1 December 2017 / Revised: 17 January 2018 / Accepted: 23 January 2018 / Published: 29 January 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Natural Resources Economics)


Rural tourism is based on the natural and cultural resources in an area that make it unique, with people as the main drivers. The main objective of this paper is to know the social perception about rural tourism impact in the Cinco Villas region (Aragon, Spain), analysing its evolution and effect on the territory. The theoretical approach is based on concepts such as rural tourism and its different elements from the perspective of sustainable local endogenous development. The research method chosen is the study case based on the Cinco Villas region. A combination of qualitative and quantitative instruments was used to research and achieve the aims of this study. A documentary analysis of the last ten years based on secondary data from institutional database sources was conducted. Primary data have been compiled from two different sources: semi-structured interviews with political leaders and tourism business people and participatory observation in focus groups.

1. Introduction

This paper describes rural tourism development in the Cinco Villas region (Aragon, Spain), the socioeconomic impact of its activity and how it has evolved from the point of view of relevant informants, which has not been studied previously.
Rural tourism is a very important activity in a local space and most activities arise from its natural resources and cultural heritage. The WTO [1] uses several dimensions to define this concept: the natural and territorial resources of rural areas, the historical and cultural heritage that it calls ‘rural heritage’, the activities performed in the territory, which it calls ‘rural way of life’ and the culture of rural populations. Out of all the definitions we analysed, they are usually based on the one established by the WTO represented in Figure 1.
Other authors believe the forms of tourism in rural areas should be identified, including traditional aspects such as food tourism, hunting tourism, environmental tourism, sports, agro-tourism and tourism in rural accommodation [2,3]. These definitions, proposed by several authors, are only a small sample of the many differing ones in the Spanish and European contexts: ’rural tourism depends on the natural, geographic and ethnological characteristics of each country and this hinders achieving a European consensus’ [4].
To summarise, based on Hernández [5], with the aim of combining the various definitions that have emerged, the following characteristics stand out: it is carried out in rural rather than urban areas; it is small in scale; it uses natural resources and the cultural environment of the local area and is respectful of these; it is an important factor in the development of local economies; and its main customers are tourists who want to experience the countryside.
Rural tourism products and activities need a good state of conservation of natural and cultural resources, accommodation integrated into the environment, services offering local products and handicrafts, local food and keeping of traditions. Rural tourism is characterised by development in small territories with their own identity that have an extensive offer of diffuse, non-concentrated and small-scale accommodation and leisure activities. Due to the characteristics of this type, the tourism development of rural areas has to ensure the territory does not lose the identity that makes it a destination capable of attracting the interest of an increasingly demand. Tourists do not buy products, they buy the satisfaction of an expectation and they value that expectation as an integral whole [6]. So, it must be measured social costs that can be derived from rural tourism development as rural areas are quite prone to adopt new values and ideas that in some cases can damage the idiosyncrasy of the place and population [7].
In recent decades, authors have used multiple concepts to define the term ‘development’ from different perspectives [9]. Given that the main dimensions are economics, territory, population and social relationships, economics is not the only factor [10]. It also encompasses an important historical component, including the common cultural values within a community or a society and the idea of future as a goal for a group of people to achieve [11]. In western societies, development has an intrinsic junction with the industrial revolution process [12].
Sustainability must be supported by development and the main place to start is in the local space. This space is just a place where solving problems on a small scale involves the possibility of solving them effectively on a global scale. Local/rural development is considered one of the main strategies for endogenous socioeconomic growth, especially in Europe [13]. It focuses on bettering the socioeconomic conditions of people in the area and giving them the best quality of life [14] to improve individual and social skills [15]. Sen [16] has already shown how development and local territory go hand in hand. Some research establishes a common agreement on the main elements local development must cover, such as finance, technology, capacity building, trade, policy coherence, partnerships and, finally, data, monitoring and accountability [17]. The term ’local’ applied to development is being progressively replaced by the term ’territory’, because of the growing importance of cultural and institutional factors in economic dynamics. Territory it is not just a concept in relation to a geographical space but a notion which includes abstract ideas, people, time, politics and power [18,19].
Endogenous development processes occur due to using local economic potential favoured by institutions and the regulatory mechanisms characterising each territory. The form of productive organisation, family structures and local traditions, social and cultural structure and population codes condition local development processes, foster or limit economic dynamics and ultimately determine the specific path of endogenous development [20], since the territory is a ‘social construction’ that contributes to local identity in relation to the collective action of the agents, that is to say, territory is seen as a project [21,22,23,24].
A series of local development actions take place in the rural environment to recover landscapes, such as greenways for green tourism and eco-museums. Territory again emerges as an important concept in rural space in all these actions. Socioeconomic changes and impacts on rural areas have been determined by two factors: firstly, modernisation and globalisation, as traditional jobs and activities have decreased [25] secondly, tourism gives rural areas an opportunity to diversify, supplement family economy, create jobs and, consequently for the population to settle down [7].
This paper deals with the evolution of tourism in the Cinco Villas region. The objectives are to describe the features of tourism and discover its socioeconomic impact on the territory and how it is perceived and managed by local people, including local politicians, entrepreneurs and business people.

2. Materials and Methods

The research method chosen was the case study based on the Cinco Villas region (Aragon, Spain). This area comprises 31 villages and 21 smaller settlements amounting to a total of 52 active population centres. A combination of quantitative and qualitative methods was used for the research and to achieve the aims of this study.
A documentary analysis was conducted on secondary data from institutional data Bases, such as IAEST (Aragonese Statistics Institute) to describe the region, Regional Tourist Office and Municipality Tourist Offices Secondary Data.
Primary data were compiled using two instruments: semi-structured interviews with political leaders and tourism business people; and a participatory direct observation process in focus groups. The aim of both was to analyse the social reality of tourism and its evolution in the Cinco Villas region (Aragon, Spain).

2.1. Semi-Structured Interviews

Fifteen semi-structured interviews were held with local participants. They were based on a previous and similar script in keeping with the study’s objective to discover the perception of experts on how tourism has evolved in the Cinco Villas region and its socioeconomic impact.

2.2. Participatory Direct Observation in Focus Groups

Direct observation and on-site visits (participant observation) provide far more fruitful and flexible information on the object of study than most other research techniques. It offers evaluators the opportunity of direct contact with the group that is evaluated, obtaining a more comprehensive and detailed vision of the object of study. It is true only when the presence of the observer does not alter or affect the analysed phenomena. No other method ‘can provide the detailed understanding that comes from directly observing people and listening to what they have to say at the scene’ [26] quoting in [27].
‘Observer as participant’ was chosen as the participation type for this research, since discovering first-hand how the phenomena and events take place was considered essential. Not only did we visit each of the municipalities forming the vast Cinco Villas region and observe their resources, potential and tourism development in situ, during some of the visits we also participated in activities for tourists and for entrepreneurs by attending courses, conferences and workshops. Consequently, we interacted on the demand side, with tourists and residents and on the supply side, with entrepreneurs, managers and experts in tourism in the area.
In addition to documented direct observation, we visited several times to participate in the most relevant and attractive tourist activities in the area. These include medieval fairs, the ‘fernandinas’, a celebration of Ferdinand II’s birth, wild mushroom picking outings, guided visits to several municipalities, visits to Jewish centres, interpretation centres, museums, hiking and golf. We have also participated in several fairs: the Ejea Fair (second multisector fair in Aragon), agro-food and handicraft market, NaturEjea (hall of tourism, leisure and sport in nature), Todomotor Classic Ejea (show for classic motorcycles, collectors and antiques). We also participated in meetings, workshops, conferences and training courses in several municipalities, contributing ideas and knowledge for activities, including producing tourist packages for the area. The actions we performed as participant observers enriched us culturally and personally and gave us more knowledge of the area.
The procedure for the interviews and focus group analysis includes:
Written transcript of all audio documents drawn up after each of the narratives containing all the fundamental aspects to understand them better [28].
Grouping by theme of the main ideas based on applying the affinity diagram methodology, also called the KJ method or Team Kawakita Jiro (TKJ), used by other researchers in Spain. The affinity diagram helps to group elements that are naturally related. It collects a large quantity of related verbal data by facilitating the identification of the most relevant and important situations under some key ideas. Each set of verbal opinions has been delimited as a category representing the most important ideas on tourism development in the Cinco Villas region. The ideas the interviewees most repeated were considered to delimit the categories and ten were defined. They provide information on the current and future existence of tourism in the municipality.
The respondents’ answers were classified into the previously listed categories. The name of the expert giving the response was not specified to safeguard anonymity. Instead interviewees were identified by a code. In this case interviewees included experts and professionals in the rural tourism sector in the area called Informants. Actor Involved in the Development of Rural Tourism [26,29,30,31,32] quoted in [28].
Several subcategories were established for each category to order and classify the most repeated ideas.
The subcategories were classified within each of the ten categories to identify the most repeated ideas in each category. Answers were added to each subcategory and ranked from highest to lowest in order of importance. The following order was considered for that purpose: each idea is only associated once with each participant even if it was repeated several times. A count was made of how many respondents’ ideas fell into each subcategory. Every opinion was associated at the end of the process with a subcategory. Relations between them were not established so as not to duplicate ideas detracting from the result of the analysis unless the answer encompasses several meanings.
The result was interpreted by dividing it into three stages. The first shows the result of each group of individual and group interviews, qualifying them by categories.
The second stage merges all the interviews to obtain a complete result by category and finally, the most important subcategories of each of the categories were extracted.
Regarding discourses, the categories include the main aspects of tourism in the Cinco Villas region from the point of view of tourism experts and managers and entrepreneurs and people from the villages. On the basis of all this information, knowledge and feelings, this study shows how to explore the description of a region in relation to the socioeconomic, cultural and environmental impacts of tourism as a complementary activity in rural areas.
We selected some representative discourses in different categories (tourism spaces, tourism management in the Cinco Villas region, the role of municipalities and the synergies among them, the role of the region as public administration, rural residents’ attitudes). Specifically, the informants are: informant 5, 12, 16, 29 (village mayors, all genders); informant 37 (tourist business man) and informant 41 (tourist guide).
A detailed analysis was conducted of each of the municipalities in the Cinco Villas region using the 6As classification by Dimitrios Buhalis [33], Defert’s tourist function rate [34] and finally the number of Assets of Cultural Interest (known by the acronym BIC in Spanish) in each of the municipalities using official sources (regional tourist office and municipal tourist offices), in Appendix A appear the list of places of interests (BICs).
According to Buhalis [33] a destination can be regarded as a combination (or even as a brand) of all products, services and ultimately experiences provided locally. Most destinations comprise a core of the following components, which can be characterised as the six As framework, namely: Attractions (natural, man-made, artificial, purpose built, heritage, special events); Accessibility (entire transportation system comprising routes, terminals and vehicles); Amenities (accommodation and catering facilities, retailing, other tourist services); Available packages (pre-arranged packages by intermediaries and principals); Activities (all activities available at the destination and what consumers do during their visit); and Ancillary services (services used by tourists such as banks, telecommunications, post, newsagents, hospitals, etc.).
An interaction with different tourist actors in the participatory observation and data coming from direct watching depicts a table with the brand or destination assessment of the municipalities allocating values from 1 to 10, being 10 the maximum score. We assume that every municipality has a different tourist offer, from those ones that have tourism as the main economic activity to those that consider tourism as a minor activity but they have a potential.
We chose the Tourist Function Rate [34] for the spatial distribution and classification of the region. It is an indicator of the level of functional specialisation in a tourist area linking the number of tourists with the resident population in each of the municipalities using the following formula: TFR = tourist accommodation places × 100/population. The purpose of this rate is to have a guide on the relationship between the local population and seasonal tourist immigrants [35] to classify tourist areas based on their functional specialisation. The value 0.01 was applied to municipalities with no accommodation as they have had or could have tourist accommodation possibilities in future. It has been chosen this value as a residual one different from Zero showing that in the period studied there was not accommodation available at the municipality but the interviewees point out that there were a real potential and resources to accommodate tourism in the future. The mathematical expression is:
T F R t   =   n u m b e r   o f   t o u r i s t   a c c o m o d a t i o n   p l a c e s P o p u l a t i o n   l a w   o f   t h e   m u n i c i p a l i t y   ×   100
The following intervals were established:
  • TFR = 0, No possibility of receiving tourism.
  • 1 < TFR < 10, minimum tourist function.
  • 10 < TFR < 100, semi-specialised localities with artistic heritage.
  • 100 < TFR < 1000, very specialized.
  • TFR > 1000, polarised, functional hypertrophy.

3. Description of the Region

Cinco Villas is a Spanish region in the autonomous community of Aragon (Figure 2) with huge natural resources, such as Bardenas Reales, beautiful landscapes and important cultural resources. It is an area with 3062.5 km2 (6.42% of Aragon) distributed into 31 municipalities with varying dimensions (the smallest are in the most mountainous and northern sector). It is an area of contrasts that presents a gradient from North to South in terms of landforms and altitudes, climate and vegetation. It is the largest region in Aragon and the only one whose territory extends from the Pyrenees to the Ebro River. It is located between three clearly defined geographical units: Pyrenees, Upper Cinco Villas, Somontano and flat land, with a variety of landscapes from the mountains to the plains or banks, passing through steppes and cereal fields.
According to Ibarra [36], the northern part of the most mountainous area is formed by the southern limit of the Exterior Ridges: Sierra de Santo Domingo (1524 m) and Sierra de la Peña. Between this last alignment and the north end there are three parallel depressions from south to north, namely the Bal d’Onsella, Canal de Berdún, extension to the west of the intermediate depression in La Jacetania and Salvatierra. Los Tablados or Peña Vaquero (1271 m) and Puy Moné (1313 m) in Luesia are other high points in the north of the region that contrast with the south due to its important plain. In the western end is the Bardenas Reales Biosphere Reserve and Natural Park between Navarre and Aragon, where we find La Plana de la Negra (644 m), which together with Vértice Esteban (747 m) of Castejón de Valdejasa are two of the great tabular reliefs in the centre of the Ebro Depression. Worth mentioning in the middle area is the Sierra de Las Pedrosas, formed by a succession of several hills that together exceed 750 m. From east to west we will find the Lomaza (771 m), the Frailes (771 m), the Planas de Puig-Artal (765 m) and the Cubilar Hondo (761 m). Most of the region is a unique place in the Spanish geography, being Bardenas Reales and the Sierra de Santo Domingo two exceptional natural resources of it.
The region’s creation is based on historical principles, since the territorial unity of the Cinco Villas dates from the thirteenth century. According to Law [37] and according to article 1, the 31 municipalities comprising it are: Ardisa, Asín, Bagüés, Biel, Biota, Castejón de Valdejasa, Castiliscar, Ejea de los Caballeros, Erla, El Frago, Isuerre, Layana, Lobera de Onsella, Longás, Luesia, Luna, Marracos, Navardún, Orés, Las Pedrosas, Piedratajada, Los Pintanos, Puendeluna, Sádaba, Sierra de Luna, Sos del Rey Católico, Tauste, Uncastillo, Undués de Lerda, Urriés and Valpalmas.
Bardenas Reales is one of the most important natural resources in the region (Figure 3). The Aragonese Bardena located south of the Bardena Blanca (Navarra) comprises a territory of about 10,000 hectares that spans three municipalities in the province of Zaragoza, this is known by the name of ‘La Negra’ (“The black”) because the colour of vegetation, especially the Aleppo pine, gives this area a dark appearance. It looks like a lunar space, completely different and exclusive, it is a stunning semi-arid landscape with a huge geographical extension, all a great scenery, no noise, no people, nothing just the desert plain of a mixture of loose stone and fine dust.
Maintaining rural spaces is a priority objective and, therefore, having a specific population whose main mission is to safeguard the rural heritage, because it is considered essential. A clear population aging, masculinisation and lack of generational replacement are problems affecting much of the rural territory, requiring a series of joint actions by public and private economic agents. Population and population density: 31,108 people (10.16 people per km2, ranging from 0.42 per km2 in Bagüés to 23.56 per km2 in Ejea de los Caballeros) are significantly lower than the density in the whole of Aragon, 27.62 people per km2.
We calculated the density without taking into account the municipality of Ejea de los Caballeros, with a population of 16,754 [38] and Tauste, with 6941 [38]. If we had, the local population density would have dropped to 2.42 per km2, which shows a significant population imbalance, strong depopulation, an unbalanced structure with a high rate of aging and masculinisation.
Our starting point is that the autonomous community of Aragon suffers an important territorial imbalance in most of its 47,720 km2. In 2015, it had a population density of 27.8 per km2 compared to 91.8 per km2 in Spain and this is considered one of the lowest in Europe, with a density of 106.2 per km2. So, it can be nearly considered as a population desert.
Its population has been steadily ageing and it is the sixth autonomous community with the most aging, reaching 137.93%, thus surpassing the national average, which is 114.72%, by 23.21%. In the last ten years, the national average has increased from 106.93%, its value in 2005 (149.38% in Aragon for 2005) and its vegetative growth is negative.
We see that Aragon is the eighth community with the highest index of masculinity, 98.47%, above the national average, whose value is 96.63%, by 1.84%. The average number of children per woman of childbearing age in Aragon has barely exceeded 1 in recent years; in 2000 it was 1.12, 2005 1.24 and 2015 1.35. The birth rate in Aragon in the last ten years has fallen compared to 2005, when it was 9.02‰. In 2015, the birth rate was 8.59‰. If we compare it with Spain 10.65‰ (2005) to 9.02‰ (2015) and Europe 10.30‰ (2005) to 9.67‰ (2015).
The population density of the Cinco Villas region in the last century has gradually decreased, although it has never been a territory with sufficient human occupation. The occupation of the territory by the population expressed in terms of absolute density gives us an average value of 10.16 people per km2, which indicates that it is a very sparsely populated area. The greater occupation of the space is located in specific and well communicated centres such as Ejea de los Caballeros (highest concentration of population with 27.4 per km2) or Tauste (17.13 per km2). In the rest of the region, small population centres predominate, which in rare cases exceed 150 inhabitants. The total area covered by Ejea and villages is 609.9 km2 and its population density is 27.47 per km2. Sádaba has 129.6 km2 including Alera with a density of 10.83 per km2.
According to regulation [39], on the sustainable development of the rural environment, small rural settlements are those with a resident population of fewer than 5000 and integrated in rural areas. There is a predominance of small and dispersed villages (77.41% with fewer than 500 inhabitants—24 municipalities). Only two municipalities exceed 5000 inhabitants, Tauste with 6941 and Ejea de los Caballeros, with 16,754. The economic base is traditional: strong agricultural presence, based on the family home as a social and production unit; scarce industry and conventional services, except in the main town in the region; new activities, several types of nature, adventure and rural tourism, agro-food and handicrafts; and new population services.
Population levels in the Cinco Villas region have dropped steadily from its highest level in 1930 in the last century. Table 1 shows that in seventy years (1930–2001) the population density has decreased by more than five points. So, it is a very determined data, showing features about depopulation, masculinization, aging and desertification of the territory.
In Spain, the rural area represents 84.5% of the total Spanish surface area with a total of 426,482 km2; 17.1% of the total population lives in the middle (7,961,407 inhabitants) with a density of 18.7 per km2. In Aragon, 91.9% of the municipalities (672) are rural, where 16.4% (216,105 inhabitants) live in the community population. Territory is rural but population is concentrated in urban areas, being Zaragoza the biggest city in the region of Aragon.

4. Tourism

The Aragonese tourist profile has to be considered to understand tourism in this region. A survey carried out by the Aragonese Chamber of Commerce [40] shows that the Aragonese visitor profile is a national one (92.51%), while foreigners represent just 7.82%. Most of the foreigners come from France (4.13%), United Kingdom (1.05%) and Italy (0.35%).
More than 55% of the tourism in Aragon comes from the most populated Spanish communities: Catalonia (25%), followed by Valencia (16.6%) and Madrid (13.8%). Aragonese tourists represent a lower percentage (13.7%). It is also important to highlight the percentage of tourists from the closest regions, such as the Basque Country (7.3%), Navarre (4.9%) and La Rioja (2.9%), representing 15.1%. Concerning gender, males represent 72.8% and females just 23.19%.
The most preferred tourism activities are directly related to the travellers’ level of studies. A high level of education in the visitors that come to Aragon is observed. Most of them have a diploma or a university degree, highlighting the high percentage of graduates in the range of 21 to 60 years (46.39%).
The age of the tourist corresponds to a young adult between 31 and 40 years old, with a medium-high cultural level, who travels with family, partner or friends and seeks different options from mass tourism and traditional leisure. The length of the stay is between 3 and 7 days, with an average cost of 30–60 euros per day without including accommodation or travel costs. Alternative activities carried out by visitors focus on rural, cultural [41] and religious tourism as part of nature tourism and snow tourism.
As the length of the stay is quite short, less than one week, trip organisation relies on the visitor using the Internet and word to mouth in close groups of friends and acquaintances.
Accommodation preferences show that 1–3 star hotels and rural houses (some of them belonging to family and friends) are the options most chosen by travellers wanting to interact with locals in cultural, religious and rural environments [3] and practise some sports activities like hiking and risk sports. Seeking silence, quietness and tranquillity are the main features of the travelling experience and also the consumption of local cuisine [24,42] the purchase of typical products and nightlife complement the trip.
As a result of their stay, visitors define their tourist experience in Aragon as ’very satisfactory’ and they are willing to come back again. In 2011, Aragon rural tourism homes were used as accommodation by 92,600 tourists, amounting to 356,000 overnight stays. This represents a slightly positive shift in the number of travellers staying, thus breaking the downward trend of recent years.
Tourists in the Cinco Villas region have approximately the same profile as in Aragon. According to the regional Statistical Office (Table 2), the number of visitors in the Cinco Villas region reached 59,365 visitors in 2015.
In 2016 there was an increase (14.48%) in the number of visitors compared with 2015, especially in the one-day group with almost 9000 more people. The majority of the tourists (69.26%) chose the area to spend one day while only 0.34% chose the destination to spend more than a week.
Regarding the evolution in the last ten years and comparing the number of visitors in 2005 with 2015 (Figure 4), it has increased by 39.97%, reaching a peak with the most visitors (74,753) in 2010. Not all the municipalities are as attractive to tourists as the statistics show. The municipality of Sos del Rey Católico registered the highest percentage of visits in recent years (58.8%), while Uncastillo registered 21.53% followed by Sádaba with 11.76% and Tauste with 0.87% (Figure 5).
According to data from the district office (2015), the highest number of visits occurs in August, followed by April and May (Figure 6). Some facts have to be considered in advance, such as the Ejea de los Caballeros and Tauste tourist offices are not opening all year round. Ejea de los Caballeros closes from January to March, while Tauste is just open in June, July and August so the statistical data do not show the tourist reality in these municipalities. Even this, coming from described data, we see that proximity tourism is consolidated, the sociocultural level of tourists is medium-high, the general tourism evolution is in crescendo with different rates depending on economic variables, promotional campaigns and other factors.

5. Results

The following results were obtained from the semi-structured interviews and the participatory process, based on the categories shown in the materials and methods paragraph.
The tourist situation in the region is dispersed, although some aspects link the locations/municipalities together, such as the heritage legacy, specifically Romanesque architecture. Despite the fact that the historical villas cover the whole region from north to south, the area that has been able to preserve its heritage and its historical legacy is centred in the upper Cinco Villas. The other municipalities also have unique characteristics that complement this extensive region. Nature also plays an important role as a resource in this region of contrasts from the most forested areas, rich in fauna and flora in the north to the more arid plain in the southern area of the territory, which encompasses part of Bardenas Reales.

5.1. Discourses

5.1.1. Category: Tourist Spaces

In the discourses of the interviewees, the upper-middle area of the Cinco Villas region is usually confirmed as the place where the main attractions are and as having the most tourism potential:
The urban hills. All the Romanesque. There are monuments and Sos and Uncastillo represent the level of monuments that are the drivers of that tourism.’
(Informant 16)
I don’t know. Sos and Uncastillo clearly develop tourism to a greater extent and the rest of us do not take off … our tourism is residual. We want to influence, that tourism is set in motion…
(Informant 12)
Sierra de Santo Domingo is a protected area that we must promote; it is unknown and that’s an advantage, because even the inhabitants of the Cinco Villas region do not know it. That’s an important point that we must take advantage of … and, of course, we have the Romanesque and the Jewish quarters.’
(Informant 5)
The rural tourism professionals also confirmed in their discourses that the middle-high area in the region contains the main attractions and tourist potential (see the abstract video). The northern part of the region, mainly Sos del Rey Católico and Uncastillo, has been able to respect and value their construction style to preserve the identity of the destination. Other municipalities have only retained all or part of the heritage they had. In some municipalities, heritage has been lost due to a lack of investment or bad management. Given the diversity of municipalities in the region, the development of tourism is based on the municipality being responsible for managing its own resources, making use of its expertise in tourism based on Article 42.2 n) of Chapter V on powers of municipalities according to regulation [43].
I think Sos del Rey Católico is the place that attracts more tourists, because I consider that a place is a tourist haunt when it has heritage and services. A place can be very attractive, like Uncastillo but it won’t be a tourist haunt until it has services that allow to develop tourism. Sos del Rey Católico, due to the circumstances, has the reputation, the heritage, services for tourists … Ejea must also be considered because it has its Romanesque heritage and enough services for tourists and Tauste, that I consider a tourist haunt because it has a very interesting heritage, such as the Mudejar Santa María church, services and is part of the historic Cinco Villas; Tauste has a mix of things that make it work for tourists. Its accommodation leaves room for improvement, Ejea’s are better.
(Informant 37)
This is why expertise in developing tourism in the municipality could have as a reference similar management to leading destinations, so that ideas can be imported that can be applied to various municipalities. Experts that know the environment and the potential of the region should use said resources to improve tourism management and make it more effective. Consequently, participants were asked about their knowledge of management in other municipalities.

5.1.2. Category: Tourism Management in the Cinco Villas Region

Discourses reveal the mismanagement that can be carried out by certain administrations due to a lack of investment or a lack of own culture even if tourism exists.
Being aware of each municipality’s characteristics would be important, since often, even when grants are distributed, they are distributed by town and by village and they are distributed the same way when, in actual fact, I believe there are other criteria. I believe that the tourist criterion should be considered by public administrations. I think administrations at both a regional and provincial level should take this into account, … Article 59 of the local administration law of Aragon talks about the municipal monuments. I explained to the autonomous community minister that in monumental municipalities, logically they have to support the monuments and attractions. So, I believe this article should be developed, Sos del Rey Católico and Uncastillo meet the conditions—and autonomous government could support us or even bring out a new condition for example, tourist municipality, “Come, get some support, as a tourist municipality.” I believe this would probably be a good idea and it could help us. … For example, I am now going to fight for the summer film campus to see if I can bring a famous filmmaker here. I have to start asking as it would be very good for us if an administration said, “Come on, let’s do this in Sos.” Every action the town manages to pack in might help in that month to maintain the earnings of the local economy, which can often suffer. Consequently, this tourist municipality criterion does not just say they’re helping you but also understands the base economy in these municipalities. Applying the tourist municipality criterion, a little bit more would probably help us. Because every town is different. The image you get from one is not the same. That image is the image you have of the province of Zaragoza or Aragon.’
(Informant 26)

5.1.3. Category: The Role of Municipalities and the Synergies among Them

Although most of the interviewees agree on the positive association between municipalities for local and regional development, besides some consolidated projects, reality is quite different for most municipalities. Trying to consolidate them under one brand to aid marketing is complicated as the area is large and its tourist attractions diverse. To highlight the region as a tourist destination, the possibility of creating a more consolidated brand, such as ‘Land of Kings’, was considered so that all the stakeholders could follow a template and promote the region with the draw of the main tourist village, Sos del Rey Católico but this has not materialised. Sos del Rey Católico has already been associated with ‘The Birth of a King’ without the other municipalities benefiting from any synergies.
We tried to participate in one project but it failed. It was a tourist project promoted by the mayors of the villages but they started it in the recession. The idea was to sign an agreement to make different routes that would start in different places depending on the municipalities of the route. The participants of the project were: Undués de Lerda with the “Camino de Santiago” (the Way of Saint James); Sos with its heritage; Urriés with its museums in old houses; and Isuerre with the mushroom museum. It was nearly finished but money ran out and some municipalities went over budget and finally we were alone in the project with Sos.’
(Informant 29)
The importance of creating synergies among the municipalities is a key factor as stated by the director of the archaeological excavation of Los Bañales. We considered it an emblematic project of endogenous development, which appears in one of the interviews that was conducted. Los Bañales in Uncastillo is an archaeological site 5 km from the municipality of Sádaba. This is a strategic site between the rivers Arba de Luesia and Riguel, which served as a crossing point for the important thoroughfare linking Caesaraugusta with Beneharnum, built between 9 and 5 BCE. A city was built in this area that must have covered around 23 hectares at its peak. The city was sheltered by a large hill, El Pueyo, which is 554 m high. The Uncastillo Foundation, commissioned by the Government of Aragon, has been excavating the eastern slope of El Pueyo since 2009. The archaeological excavations, led by Andreu and Bienes, have uncovered part of a block of houses and possibly the city’s forum [44,45,46].
This project has not only managed to enhance the resource in the Cinco Villas region, it has also spread beyond the borders, attracting students, teachers and archaeologists. Agreements and collaborations with foreign universities make it a pioneering project in the region, as described in this discourse:
Association among the municipalities is essential for two reasons. Firstly, because it represents a model in which although Los Bañales is legally in the municipality of Uncastillo, the surrounding towns have understood—partly due to the historic thoroughfare, because Los Bañales was a Roman city whose surrounding rural territory extended into the current municipalities of Biota, Uncastillo, Sádaba and Layana—these councils have understood that the impact of tourism in Los Bañales will leave its mark on Uncastillo but it will also leave its mark on the surrounding municipalities and will attract development possibilities. That is the first success, managing to get something that belongs to just one council to become everyone’s project. Secondly, I think it also establishes a management model, which, for institutional pressure purposes, is more effective, because, logically, when asking for a grant or European funds, it’s better for four councils to ask together than just one, especially when we're not talking about an Ejea de los Caballeros, or a Calatayud but instead medium-sized or small municipalities. I think this institutional involvement has proved essential and I believe it is one of the major achievements of Los Bañales, besides social involvement. I think the people in the villages, independently of the council, the people in the villages have reconnected with Los Bañales and consider it theirs, people from Biota, from Sádaba and of course from Uncastillo.’
(Special Informant)

5.1.4. The Role of the Region as Public Administration

Most interviewees agree that the region should encourage more collaboration and better tourism management.
‘… recently the region has promoted signage for the Jewish quarters but often … actions … you have to invest a lot of money without knowing very well how or why and I think that, instead of some types of actions, more detailed studies should be done, because some quarters already have signs while others do not. Sometimes we receive specific budget for some actions without a previous detailed study with the guidelines of what to do and why. Other times they spend money without a specific purpose and it would be more effective if it were spent knowing why it is done.’
(Informant 16)

5.1.5. Rural Residents’ Attitudes

Although most interviewees agree tourism has great potential, it has not been properly consolidated. This explains why residents in most of the municipalities lack a clear tourist culture that makes them see tourism as a development sector despite the potential (for example, in the upper Cinco Villas). This attitude is enhanced by depopulation, one of the main disadvantages that most of the municipalities in the region suffers from and a decisive factor in local development. In general, although residents can see the territory’s potential, their focus in all municipalities is more individual.
I think that people should know more about the heritage of the region, especially local people and owners of the rural tourism houses. I would hold a conference to raise awareness of the area’s heritage for the local people and for the tourism entrepreneurs in the region … for everyone, the catering industry in general, accommodation, restaurants, etc. How they should talk about and recommend local sites of interest such as Luesia, the golf course, churches, the interpretation centre of religious art, if they have not been there or if they do not even know about it existence? If we talk with business owners about the Aguarales and they have not been there and do not know it, how can they be in command of the people? …’
(Informant 41)
There is a high percentage of women that have created businesses linked to the tourism sector to continue living in the rural environment (58.46% rural accommodation in general, 61.9% rural houses in particular) (IAEST). These rural women are crucial for sustainability, since they are helping to improve the territory’s demographic structure. Therefore, there is more hope for a future for the rural environment they are supporting as they gain empowerment and more independence.

5.2. Tourist Function Rate (TFR), Buhalis’s 6As and Number of BICs

The numbers obtained from the analysis of the villages are disclosed in Table 3, first of all it is calculated the TFR (Tourist Function Rate) following the formula shown in Section 2, taking into account the number of tourist accommodation places in each of the municipalities according to official data (IAEST) and the population law of the municipality from (IAEST).
For the description of the Buhalis’s 6As, numbers come from a ratio obtained by the researchers’ following the strategy exposed in Section 2. Table 3 indicates numbers coming from the average of all the different 6As in each municipality and Table 4 displays the whole punctuation for the region in each category, for the calculation, an arithmetic mean has been established, giving an equitable weight in each of the cited categories.
The number of assets of cultural interest called BICs come from the Official data (Aragonese Government) including archaeological heritage, intangible and immovable cultural heritage, movable heritage and palaeontology (Appendix A); these data coming from the Government are specified and listed without any kind of order of importance; nevertheless, in Figure 7 it is given a value for each of the villages into Cinco Villas region.
Data from Table 3 are represented in three dimensions in Figure 7 to show exactly the current situation in the region relating to the tourism offer which is represented by 6As, cultural resources numbered and called BICs and the tourist function rate.
One of the most interesting results shows how some of the towns and villages (those under the axis) have a certain degree of development based on all the determinants of rural tourism development. However, the results for some of them, such as Urriés and Bagüés, are completely different as their population is very low, despite containing many rural houses. The other villages are under the axis, are in the right position among the tourist offer, the population and the BICs.
In Figure 8 it is represented the Buhalis´s 6As coming from data include in Table 3 and data coming from the participatory direct observation, concretely the main dimensions considered in relation to tourist evolution in Cinco Villas region, these are:
  • tourist independence, which means the village capacity of attracting visitors without the influence of other municipalities;
  • political involvement, refers to the politician’s commitment in relation to tourism and to the endogenous development of the region;
  • business initiative in rural tourism, means the private role in the economy of the region due to the touristic offer such as rural houses, sports and active tourism, …
  • involvement of residents, is the perceived level of acceptance that people in the region have in relation to visitors and their level of empathy with foreigners.
Most of the investments have targeted maintaining and improving existing resources in the municipalities. Less importance has been given to access routes to these municipalities. Many municipalities have important attractions but their maintenance is scarce or non-existent. Some buildings are private and others, although they are public, do not receive adequate funds for their maintenance. This not only leads to tourism in the territory creating a bad impression but also fuels doubts about the fulfilment of the area’s tourist revitalization objectives.
In Figure 9, it is represented results coming from the same sources as Figure 8 and all the measures are disaggregated by municipalities. These colours show the village situation in relation to Buhalis’s 6As and relevant dimensions in relation to tourist development; the main three municipalities are Sos del Rey Católico, Uncastillo and Ejea de los Caballeros and then the rest of the municipalities.
In the eastern part of the region, municipalities are so small that, although their heritage is perfectly preserved, they cannot become a tourist attraction. This means their tourism has to be complemented by other bordering municipalities and additional activities, such as those related to nature. A clear example of this case is Ardisa. Even though it has small monuments, this alone does not attract visitors. Instead it uses river descents down the River Gállego as a tourist attraction for the municipality. Marracos, Piedratajada, Puendeluna, Sierra de Luna and Valpalmas are other examples of this situation.

6. Discussion

Our research in its descriptive part based on secondary data on the evolution of Tourism in Cinco Villas region shows an objective picture and has quite significant similarities to the study of Cánoves et al. [47] just in relation to the pros of rural tourism impacts (Table 5). We agree that rural tourism contributes to local endogenous development and to the promotion of local products and handicraft, fostering innovative activities and creating new employees. This is a new opportunity specially for young people and women that helps to fight against rural exodus. From a cultural perspective, we agree that rural tourism boosts the identify sense of the community and also helps to identify and know the region offering cultural exchange between locals and new incoming people. From the environmental approach, we can also see that rural tourism also contributes to revitalize natural resources, promotes rural areas protection and also boosts the environmental awareness of local community because old buildings are reutilized for tourist accommodation, reducing massive constructions.
Nevertheless, in relation to cons, our research differs in some aspects from that one, especially data coming from social perception and knowledge. One aspect is the women’s role in relation to tourism, it is a very important and significant one but there are other social actors involved in tourism (men and young people); another point is in relation to the risk of manufacturing local culture, in our study thanks to tourism, local culture is being present in political decision making, improving it through different types of activities, performances and programmes. In general, tourism is perceived in the region as a complementary activity, so jobs are not so bad because they are designed to the situation of local workers with responsibilities in other economic tasks. The probability of generating socioeconomic inequalities is not so present in the narratives. Finally, in relation to the environmental impact, Cinco Villas region has no such number of visitors to realize this specific risk. Besides this, natural resources are promoted and protected looking for an increase in the quality of life for next generations. Even more, in our research, we have seen that in some municipalities, rural tourism has promoted the restoration and preservation of archaeological sites.
This study has also some limitations. On the one hand, not all the agents interviewed wanted to give us significant information about the evolution of tourism and its impact on the territory. Sometimes, it has been really difficult to access to relevant informants, specially in the public institutions that have some competences overlapped (municipalities and the region as public administration).
On the other hand, despite the fact that the assessment was made by all the researching team, using the triangulation of researchers as a validation strategy, an epistemological question arises when data from qualitative techniques have to be interpreted, because other elucidations can also be possible. Also in relation to methodology, specifically applying the 6As framework, we realize that it has a component of subjectivity, because values given to the categories could have certain variability and a different weighting depending on the criteria of researchers.
Future research directions include an in-depth study of three important points in tourism development and impacts on the Cinco Villas region: first, the analysis of sustainable policies in the region around Bardenas Reales; second, the study of population settlement for five or ten years after this study; third, research into the evolution of the demand in the region, taking new social trends into account and how the offer will answer to it.

7. Conclusions

The methodological approach, study case research, has allowed to get conclusions about tourism in Cinco Villas region. This region has natural and cultural resources to be a tourist attractive territory; the social perception of tourism impact shows a positive evolution during last years. Rural tourism has a key, the personal interaction with visitors creating an emotional linkage, where authenticity runs together with the natural environment and an eye-catching landscape all together with an increasing new offer and innovative activities all around cultural heritage. Politicians role has to have a leadership of both tourism and endogenous development and it is not still present in all the different municipalities of the region. Business initiatives are improving the situation of the region because private commitment of all the entrepreneurs and specially women from the territory.
The rural environment constantly has to reinvent itself without losing sight of its own identity and it does this in a permanently paradoxical manner. On the one hand, the need to survive based on sustainability, in general and respect for the environment, in particular. And on the other, setting in motion new activities that manage to attract people to settle on a permanent or temporary basis. The proposed activities are especially, although not exclusively, related to leisure and, therefore, rural tourism is a basic instrument for developing the rural environment. Throughout the process, fostering creativity, innovation and information and communication technologies are essential because they help the area to be connected and promote it as a smart rural area.
There exist disparities in tourist spaces in Cinco Villas. Tourism is a new recent development process in Cinco Villas, not the same in all the municipalities. While the main driver of development is traditional agriculture, which is still of prime importance in most municipalities; in there some tourism actions and proposals face considerable challenges. For example, small municipalities (central western part the region), where there was never a tourism focus previously, are starting to consider tourism with slow results and progress, having the influence of the northern part of bigger villages. The municipalities in the north, mainly Sos del Rey Católico and Uncastillo, whose stakeholders have considered tourism as a driver of economic and social development, have achieved more effective progress in tourism.
Despite the fact that the region has a great potential in human, natural and heritage resources, these resources still have a great deal of potential that remains largely untapped due to a lack of training in tourism, failure to form business partnerships and the stakeholders’ reluctance to fully cooperate. Taking into account that the role of political and private stakeholders is fundamental for tourism development in the Cinco Villas region. Even this, the human capital of Cinco Villas is enterprising. Sometimes it has been curbed and frustrated by the lack of response and support from the public administration and other tourism stakeholders. The public sector behaves completely differently in each municipality. However, the public sector’s tourism perspective and knowledge does not target tourism development as a whole but instead targets the development of the municipalities, specifically the bigger ones. Furthermore, entrepreneurs, including women, in Cinco Villas have based the companies they have founded on the region’s natural, historic and cultural resources, thus revitalising part of the territory and recovering its heritage.
Rural development groups and some local councils in the Cinco Villas region have focused their attention more on increasing the accommodation and/or catering on offer than on the need to make coherent investments. They have overlooked the need for all these proposals to focus on a stable tourism demand and enhancing their ability to compete with other destinations. The role of municipalities and the synergies among them is an essential aspect to develop rural tourism in the region. The role of municipalities coordination must come from the region with its public administration, it is still a real challenge. Both roles, municipalities and region, have to improve their territory commitment in relation to endogenous development.
The involvement of the resident population is essential for tourist development in the rural municipality, investments in municipalities where residents are aware of tourism’s role focus on the conservation of all their resources and meeting tourist demands. Consequently, they have seen more development than in other municipalities where interest in conservation and cooperation is not as strong. The destination’s tourist image can be improved on. The Cinco Villas brand exists but it is not well known. As a whole, the region has tourism potential and this image would be consolidated if the municipalities collaborated more.
Rural tourism is an increasing development process in the Cinco Villas region and it is gradually starting to produce positive, productive and encouraging results.

Supplementary Materials

The following are available online at

Author Contributions

Victoria Sanagustin-Fons, Teresa Lafita-Cortés and José A. Moseñe have pointed out the research objectives and the theoretical framework; Victoria Sanagustin-Fons has designed the methodological strategy and defined all the social research techniques; Teresa Lafita-Cortés has developed all the field work and done the analysis; José A. Moseñe has made the research discussion, English review and worked with all the figures and references with the references manager ; all the three have obtained the conclusions.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Appendix A

Table A1. List of places of interest (BICs) in Cinco Villas region by Municipality.
Table A1. List of places of interest (BICs) in Cinco Villas region by Municipality.
Yacimiento El corral de CalvoLuesia
“Los Bañales”Uncastillo
Pueyo de “Los Bañales”Uncastillo
Intangible Cultural Heritage
Dance de TausteTauste
Cultural Heritage
Castillo de BallestaArdisa
Crucero del CrucifijoArdisa
Iglesia P.Sta Maria del RosarioAsín
Cruz de CrucetaAsín
Cruz de la Virgen del CampoAsín
Iglesia de los Santos Julián y BasilisaBagüés
Torre del CastilloBiel
Crucero del BurgoBiel
Crucero del CastilloBiel
Peirón de San MartínBiel
Castillo—Torreón del Conde ArandaBiota
Iglesia de San MiguelBiota
Palacio de los Condes de ArandaBiota
Castillo de Malpica de ArbaBiota
Castillo de SoraCastejón de Valdejasa
Torre y Portada Iglesia de Sta. Mª La MayorCastejón de Valdejasa
Crucero de la Cruz AltaCastiliscar
Cruz BajaCastiliscar
Castillo de CastiliscarCastiliscar
Conjunto Histórico de Ejea de los CaballerosEjea de los Caballeros
Iglesia Fortificada del SalvadorEjea de los Caballeros
Iglesia Fortificada de Santa MaríaEjea de los Caballeros
Muralla de Ejea de los CaballerosEjea de los Caballeros
Castillo de La CoronaEjea de los Caballeros
CruceroEjea de los Caballeros
Cruz de San PedroEjea de los Caballeros
Cruz o Pilón del SerrallónEjea de los Caballeros
Peirón de San IsidroEjea de los Caballeros
Viacrucis y CalvarioEjea de los Caballeros
Torre de SeñoríoErla
Castillo—Palacio de PaúlesErla
Castillo de SantiasErla
Castillo de Los LunasErla
Cruz de Santa AnaErla
Iglesia Parroquial de San Nicolás de BariFrago, El
Ermita de San MiguelFrago, El
Humilladero de CristoFrago, El
Viacrucis y CalvarioFrago, El
Torre de LayanaLayana
La Cruz del PuenteLongás
Iglesia del SalvadorLuesia
Castillo de LuesiaLuesia
Conjunto Histórico Villa de LuesiaLuesia
Crucero de San SeveroLuesia
Ermita de San Gil de MediavillaLuna
Castillo de la Corona o Torre del relojLuna-Lacorvilla
Castillo de Lacorvilla o YéqueraLuna
Castillo de ObanoLuna
Castillo de VillaverdeLuna
Iglesia de SantiagoLuna
Muralla de LunaLuna
Crucero de AbarrósLuna
Crucero de MingaléLuna
Crucero de MonloraLuna
Crucero de Mosén PabloLuna
Crucero de PaúlesLuna
Crucero de ValdecabañasLuna
Crucero de la Cruz BajaLuna
Crucero o rollo de SantíaLuna
Cruz de MonrealLuna
Cruz de PaúlesLuna
Cruz de MarracosMarracos
Torre—Castillo de NavardúnNavardún
Crucero de MoreaNavardún
Cruz de GoyoOrés
Cruz de la AtalayaOrés
Cruz de las ErasOrés
Cruz de GurreaPedrosas, Las
Cruz del CementerioPedrosas, Las
Cruz de la PlazaPiedratajada
Iglesia de Ntra. Sra. de la PurificaciónPintanos, Los
CruceroPintanos, Los
Crucero de RuestaPintanos, Los
Crucero o RolloPintanos, Los
Cruz de San JuanPintanos, Los
Estela del puentePintanos, Los
Castillo de Sádaba o de Los BañalesSádaba
Mausoleo de la SinagogaSádaba
Mausoleo de los AtiliosSádaba
Iglesia de Santa MaríaSádaba
Torre de la Iglesia de Santa MaríaSádaba
Casa ParroquialSádaba
Monasterio Concepción VirgenSádaba
Cruz del altoSádaba
Cruz del CementerioSierra de Luna
Casa Palacio de los SadaSos del Rey Católico
Villa de Sos del Rey CatólicoSos del Rey Católico
Iglesia parroquial de San EstebanSos del Rey Católico
MurallasSos del Rey Católico
Castillo de Peña FelizanaSos del Rey Católico
Casa de la TorreSos del Rey Católico
Castillo de AñuesSos del Rey Católico
Castillo de RoitaSos del Rey Católico
Crucero de RuestaSos del Rey Católico
Crucero de San JuanSos del Rey Católico
Crucero de ValentuñanaSos del Rey Católico
Crucero de la Puerta de ZaragozaSos del Rey Católico
Crucero de la Puerta de la ReinaSos del Rey Católico
Crucero de los Tres CaminosSos del Rey Católico
Cruz de ValentuñanaSos del Rey Católico
Iglesia de Santa MaríaTauste
Castillo de TausteTauste
Iglesia de San Antonio AbadTauste
Monasterio de San JorgeTauste
Villa de UncastilloUncastillo
Casa ConsistorialUncastillo
Torre de la Iglesia de Santa María La MayorUncastillo
Iglesia de San AndrésUncastillo
Iglesia de San MiguelUncastillo
Castillo de Peña AyllónUncastillo
Castillo de SibiranaUncastillo
Torre de la iglesia de San MartínUncastillo
Castillo de PeñamiraUncastillo
Cruz de Santa CruzUncastillo
Cruz del PeñazoUncastillo
Iglesia Parroquial de San MartínUndués de Lerda
Castillo de RuestaUrriés - Ruesta
Ermita de San Juan de RuestaUrriés
Ermita de Santiago de RuestaUrriés
Torre de UrriésUrriés
Iglesia de San EstebanUrriés
Torre de ValpalmasValpalmas
Movable Cultural Assets
Hebrew inscriptionFrago, El
Hebrew inscriptionUncastillo
Relieve prerrománicoLuesia
Ichnite (fossil footprints) sitesSierra de Luna
Source: Partially adapted from Aragonese Government, 2016.


  1. European Travel Commission. City Tourism & Culture: The European Experience; European Travel Commission: Brussels, Belgium, 2005. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  2. Martín Gil, F. Nuevas Formas de Turismo en Los Espacios Rurales Españoles. Estudios Turísticos 1994, 122, 15–40. [Google Scholar]
  3. Roberts, L.; Hall, D. Consuming the Countryside: Marketing for ‘Rural Tourism’. J. Vacat. Mark. 2004, 10, 253–263. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  4. Mediano Serrano, L.; Vicente Molina, M.A. Análisis del Concepto de Turismo Rural E Implicaciones de Marketing. Boletín Económico de ICE Información Comercial Española 2002, 2741, 25–36. [Google Scholar]
  5. Hernández-Mogollón, J.M.; Cerro, A.M.C.; Durán, J.M.G. Propuestas Para el Desarrollo Y Comercialización del Turismo Ornitológico en Extremadura. Cuadernos de Turismo 2011, 28, 93–119. [Google Scholar]
  6. Sidali, K.L.; Morocho, P.Y.; Garrido-Pérez, E.I. Food Tourism in Indigenous Settings as a Strategy of Sustainable Development: The Case of Ilex Guayusa Loes. Sustainability 2016, 8, 967. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  7. Sanagustín, M.V.; Moseñe, J.A.; Gómez, M. Rural Tourism: A Sustainable Alternative. Appl. Energy 2011, 88, 551–557. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  8. Cánoves Valiente, G.; Herrera Jiménez, L.; Villarino Pérez, M. Turismo Rural en España: Paisajes Y Usuarios, Nuevos Usos Y Nuevas Visiones. Cuadernos de Turismo 2005, 15, 63–76. [Google Scholar]
  9. Becattini, G.; Costa-Campí, M.T.; Trullen, J. Desarrollo Local: Teorías Y Estrategias; Civitas: Madrid, Spain, 2002. [Google Scholar]
  10. Meier, G.M.; Baldwin, R.E. Desarrollo Económico; Aguilar: Madrid, Spain, 1972. [Google Scholar]
  11. Dubois, A. Un Concepto de Desarrollo Para el Siglo XXI. Available online: (accessed on 15 April 2017).
  12. Brunet, I.; Böcker Zavaro, R. Desarrollo, Industria Y Empresa; Tecnos: Madrid, Spain, 2007. [Google Scholar]
  13. Garofoli, G. Las Experiencias de Desarrollo Económico Local en Europa: Las Enseñanzas Para América Latina; URB-AL III. Mayo: San José, Costa Rica, 2009; pp. 4–7. [Google Scholar]
  14. Sachs, I. Ecodesarrollo. Concepto, Aplicación, Implicaciones. Comer. Exter. 1980, 30, 725. [Google Scholar]
  15. Haque, M.S. Restructuring Development Theories and Policies: A Critical Study; State University of New York Press: New York, NY, USA, 1999. [Google Scholar]
  16. Sen, A.K. Las Teorías del Desarrollo a Principios del Siglo XXI. Cuadernos de Economía 1998, 17, 73–100. [Google Scholar]
  17. Stafford-Smith, M.; Griggs, D.; Gaffney, O.; Ullah, F.; Reyers, B.; Kanie, N.; O’Connell, D. Integration: The Key to Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals. Sustain. Sci. 2016, 1, 911–919. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  18. Gottmann, J. The Evolution of the Concept of Territory. Soc. Sci. Inf. 1975, 14, 29–47. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  19. Elden, S. The Birth of Territory; The University of Chicago Press: London, UK, 2013. [Google Scholar]
  20. Vázquez Barquero, A. Desarrollo Local y Territorio. In Desarrollo Local Manual de Uso; Pérez Ramírez, B., Carrillo, E., Eds.; ESIC FAMP: Madrid, Spain, 2000. [Google Scholar]
  21. Dematteis, G.; Governa, F.; Territorio, Y. Territorialidad en el Desarrollo Local. la Contribución del Modelo SLOT. Boletín de la AGE 2005, 39, 31–58. [Google Scholar]
  22. Libery, B.; Kneafsey, M. Product and Place: Promoting Quality Products and Services in the Lagging Rural Regioms of the European Union. Eur. Urban Reg. Stud. 1998, 5, 329–341. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  23. Winter, M. Embeddedness, the New Food Economy and Defensive Localism. J. Rural Stud. 2003, 19, 23–32. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  24. Rinaldi, C. Food and Gastronomy for Sustainable Place Development: A Multidisciplinary Analysis of Different Theoretical Approaches. Sustainability 2017, 9, 1748. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  25. Saarinen, J.; Lenao, M. Integrating Tourism to Rural Development and Planning in the Developing World. Dev. South. Afr. 2014, 31, 363–372. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  26. Becker, H.S.; Geer, B. Participant Observation and Interviewing: A Comparison. Hum. Organ. 1957, 16, 28–32. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  27. Taylor, S.J.; Bogdan, R. Introducción a Los Métodos Cualitativos de Investigación; La Búsqueda del Significado; Paidós: Barcelona, Spain, 1992. [Google Scholar]
  28. Strauss, A.; Corbin, J. Basics of Qualitative Research: Grounded Theory Procedures and Techniques; Sage Publications: Thousand Oaks, CA, USA, 1990. [Google Scholar]
  29. Miles, M.B.; Huberman, A.M. An Expanded Sourcebook Qualitative Data Analysis, 2nd ed.; Sage Publications: London, UK, 1994. [Google Scholar]
  30. Charmaz, K. Loss of Self: A Fundamental Form of Suffering in the Chronically Ill. Sociol. Health Illn. 1983, 5, 168–195. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  31. Charmaz, K. Between Positivism and Postmodernism: Implications for Methods. Stud. Symb. Interact. 1995, 17, 43–72. [Google Scholar]
  32. Lofland, J. Analysing Social Settings; Wadsworth Pub: Belmont, CA, USA, 1971. [Google Scholar]
  33. Buhalis, D. Marketing the Competitive Destination of the Future. Tour. Manag. 2000, 21, 97–116. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  34. Defert, P. Le Taux de Fonction Touristique: Mise au Point et Critique; Centre des Hautes Etudes Touristiques: Aix-en Provence, France, 1967. [Google Scholar]
  35. Laguna, M.; Lasanta, T.L. Balance de las Políticas Públicas en el Desarrollo Rural del Pirineo Aragonés. Boletín de la Asociación de Geógrafos Españoles 2007, 43, 29–49. [Google Scholar]
  36. Ibarra, P. Marco Geográfico y Rasgos Geomorfológicos de Comarca de las Cinco Villas; Comarca de las Cinco Villas: Zaragoza, Spain, 2007; pp. 21–37. [Google Scholar]
  37. Gobierno de Aragón. Ley 26/2002 De 26 De Noviembre, De Creación De La Comarca De Cinco Villas. Available online: (accessed on 15 January 2017).
  38. IAEST. Encuesta De Ocupación De Alojamientos Turísticos. Available online: (accessed on 15 January 2017).
  39. Jefatura del Estado. Ley 45/2007 De 13 De Diciembre, para el desarrollo sostenible del medio rural; BOE 199, 2007. Available online: (accessed on 15 January 2017).
  40. Sanagustín, M.V.; Gómez, C.; Moseñe, J.A.; Gomez y Patiño, M.; Fornós, A.; Gómez, R.; Muñoz, M.; Vigara, M.; Tobía, C.; Oliván, R. Análisis, Diagnóstico y Propuestas de Mejora del Turismo en Aragón: Del Turismo Como Riesgo a la Oportunidad de un Turismo Sostenible. Available online: (accessed on 15 January 2017).
  41. Bochenek, M. Festival Tourism of Folk Group Dancers from Selected Countries of the World. J. Sport Tour. 2013, 20, 95–99. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  42. Bekier-Jaworska, E.; Bochenek, M. Brand Products of Regional Cuisine in the Promotion of Tourism in Roxtocze. J. Sport Tour. 2014, 21, 263–267. [Google Scholar]
  43. Gobierno de Aragón. Ley 7/1999 de 9 de Abril de Administración local de Aragóneación De La Comarca De Cinco Villas. Available online: (accessed on 15 January 2017).
  44. Jordán, Á.A. Una Donación ex Testamento Procedente del Foro de los Bañales (Uncastillo, Zaragoza). Espacion Tiempo y Forma 2012, 2, 75–92. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  45. Jordán, Á.A.; Andreu, J. Un Nievo Conjunto Epigráfico en el Foro Romano de los Bañales (Uncastillo, Zaragoza). AEspA 2014, 87, 243–255. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  46. Andreu, J.; Bienes, J.J.; Lasaora, E.; Romero, L. El foro de la ciudad romana de Los Bañales (Uncastillo, Zaragoza): Aspectos estructurales y cronológicos preliminares. In Proceedings of the X VIIIth International Congress of Classical Archaeology; Álvarez, J.M., Nogales, T., Roda, I., Eds.; Asociación Internacional de Arqueología Clásica AIAC: Mérida, Spain, 2014; pp. 1673–1677. [Google Scholar]
  47. Canoves, G.; Villarino, M.; Herrera, L. Políticas Públicas, Turismo Rural y Sostenibilidad: Difícil Equilibrio. Boletín de la Asociación de Geógrafos Españoles (A.G.E.) 2006, 41, 199–217. [Google Scholar]
Figure 1. Rural Tourism concept by WTO. Source: Adapted from [8].
Figure 1. Rural Tourism concept by WTO. Source: Adapted from [8].
Sustainability 10 00339 g001
Figure 2. Location of the region. Source: Own elaboration, adapted from Google Earth.
Figure 2. Location of the region. Source: Own elaboration, adapted from Google Earth.
Sustainability 10 00339 g002
Figure 3. Bardenas Reales, Ejea de los Caballeros and villages. Source: Own elaboration, adapted from Google Earth, 2016.
Figure 3. Bardenas Reales, Ejea de los Caballeros and villages. Source: Own elaboration, adapted from Google Earth, 2016.
Sustainability 10 00339 g003
Figure 4. Evolution of visitors in the Cinco Villas region (number of visitors). Source: Own elaboration, based on official data [38].
Figure 4. Evolution of visitors in the Cinco Villas region (number of visitors). Source: Own elaboration, based on official data [38].
Sustainability 10 00339 g004
Figure 5. Evolution in the number of tourists visiting tourist offices. Source: Own elaboration, based on regional data [38].
Figure 5. Evolution in the number of tourists visiting tourist offices. Source: Own elaboration, based on regional data [38].
Sustainability 10 00339 g005
Figure 6. Number of visitors in tourist offices by months. Source: Own elaboration, from the regional office [38].
Figure 6. Number of visitors in tourist offices by months. Source: Own elaboration, from the regional office [38].
Sustainability 10 00339 g006
Figure 7. Tourist positioning of the municipalities in the Cinco Villas region based on Buhalis’s 6As and the Tourist Function Rate. Source: Own elaboration.
Figure 7. Tourist positioning of the municipalities in the Cinco Villas region based on Buhalis’s 6As and the Tourist Function Rate. Source: Own elaboration.
Sustainability 10 00339 g007
Figure 8. Cinco Villas region, main tourist resources. Source: own elaboration.
Figure 8. Cinco Villas region, main tourist resources. Source: own elaboration.
Sustainability 10 00339 g008
Figure 9. Cinco Villas region, main tourist resources in towns and villages. Source: Own elaboration risk.
Figure 9. Cinco Villas region, main tourist resources in towns and villages. Source: Own elaboration risk.
Sustainability 10 00339 g009
Table 1. Cinco Villas population. Historical series 1900–2011.
Table 1. Cinco Villas population. Historical series 1900–2011.
YearPopulationPopulation Density (per km2)YearPopulationPopulation Density (per km2)
Source: Own elaboration based on IAEST [38].
Table 2. Visitors distribution by days of stay in the Cinco Villas region.
Table 2. Visitors distribution by days of stay in the Cinco Villas region.
1 January to 21 December 20151 January to 31 December 2016Increase-Decrease
Total number of visitors59,365 67,964 14.48%
Number of visitors that have stayed in the region55,36293.26%63,65193.65%14.97%
1 day41,11669.26%50,21673.89%22.13%
2–3 days11,66519.65%11,16116.42%−4.32%
4–7 days20773.50%18152.67%−12.61%
no value40036.74%43136.35%7.74%
Source: Own elaboration, based on IAEST [38].
Table 3. TFR, 6As and number of BIC.
Table 3. TFR, 6As and number of BIC.
MunicipalitiesTFR6ASNo. of BIC
Castejón de Valdejasa5.263.452
Ejea de los Caballeros4.586.7910
El Frago2.165.545
Lobera de Onsella21.435.170
Sierra de Luna2.492.792
Sos del Rey Católico4.498.3315
Undués de Lerda22.085.581
Undués Pintano 104.925.753
Source: Own elaboration, based on Buhalis’s 6As, TFR [34] and number of BIC (Cultural Assets of Interest).
Table 4. Buhalis 6As in Cinco Villas.
Table 4. Buhalis 6As in Cinco Villas.
Cinco Villas (5,5)Puntuaction
1. Attractions
● ResourcesCultural heritage8
2. Accessibility
● AccessMain road accessibility6
Attractiveness of acces 6
● EnvironmentAttractiveness of the environment6
Maintenance of the environment5
● Urban areaAttractiveness of the urban area6
Maintenance of the urban centre6
● Tourist signageIndicating content 5
Indicating location 4
Explaining content4
Explaining material 4
3. Amenities
● Restoration 6
● Accomodation 6
● Tourist information Accessibility 4
Quality of tourist information6
Material and human resources 7
4. Available packages 4
5. Activities 4
6. Ancillary services 6
Other aspects:
Involvement of resident5
Business initiative in rural tourism6
Political involvement5
Tourist independence5
Source: Own elaboration.
Table 5. Rural tourism impacts, pros and cons.
Table 5. Rural tourism impacts, pros and cons.
Socioeconomic- Diversification of rural economy, promoting the service sector.
- Demand for new services for the community and new infrastructures.
- Promotion of innovative activities.
- Help to develop local and craft products.
- Creation of new employment.
- Additional income for local families.
- New opportunities for young people and women.
- Reduction of rural exodus.
- Contribution to return migration movement.
- Contribution to local endogenous development.
- Jobs created are normally part-time jobs and conditions are not good enough.
- Women’s role of taking care of tourists continues.
- Creates inflation and a rise in housing prices.
- Seasonal activity that needs other income.
-Benefits created cannot be spread equally in the community.
Cultural- Local culture recovery and revitalization.
- Boosts the community’s sense of identity.
- Boosts collective activities.
- Helps to identify places.
- Provides intercultural exchanges between locals and newcomers.
- Risk of manufacturing the local culture.
- Can modify social balance in the community.
- Can generate upper class and reject new incoming members.
- Can create a sense of identity usurpation and local community marginalisation.
Environmental- Revitalization factor of natural resources.
- Contribution to heritage and environmental awareness.
- Encourages natural protected areas.
- Boosts environmental sensibility of the local community.
- Preserves agriculture and landscape.
- Uses ancient characteristic interpretations buildings and reduces massive construction areas.
- Tourist activity and tourists create environmental impacts.
- Tourism creates pollution, waste and noise and light pollution.
- Tourism consumes environmental resources and modifies local flora and fauna.
Source: Partially adapted from [47].

Share and Cite

MDPI and ACS Style

Sanagustin-Fons, V.; Lafita-Cortés, T.; Moseñe, J.A. Social Perception of Rural Tourism Impact: A Case Study. Sustainability 2018, 10, 339.

AMA Style

Sanagustin-Fons V, Lafita-Cortés T, Moseñe JA. Social Perception of Rural Tourism Impact: A Case Study. Sustainability. 2018; 10(2):339.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Sanagustin-Fons, Victoria, Teresa Lafita-Cortés, and José A. Moseñe. 2018. "Social Perception of Rural Tourism Impact: A Case Study" Sustainability 10, no. 2: 339.

Note that from the first issue of 2016, this journal uses article numbers instead of page numbers. See further details here.

Article Metrics

Back to TopTop