The arguments that support rural tourism (income, employment, environment, etc.) allow it to be considered as one of the main strategic assets for local development, especially in the most marginal regions. It appears indisputable that rural tourism, in particular farm tourism, is able to supplement farm income ensuring the perpetuation of externalities related to farm activities (landscape, biodiversity, tradition, etc.), especially when it is a form of agricultural diversification or re–positioning, consistent with the multifunctional (and post–productivist) paradigm adopted by the latest European policies. However, there are more cautious positions based on evidence, equally founded, revealing threats to the sustainability of the processes of growth of tourist presences. To this end, the paper proposes a comparison between seven southern Italian regions by applying the Index Decomposition Analysis (IDA) to variations in presences recorded during the 2001–2013 period, in order to evaluate several implications of critical reflections related to the sustainability of the growth of rural tourism.
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