1. Summary of the present state of the problem and topicality of the research project
Recent major changes in rural development in Europe instigated by the decline in farming as a determinant, followed by population loss, lack of public services, economic and ecological degradation have brought about new demands made on rural space. A shift from the agricultural to the rural known as the ‘post-productivist transition’ (Ilbery 1998) has produced a type of modern rurality characterized by the complete integration of rural areas within the contemporary economic and social organisation of the capitalist world (Árnason et al 2009: 54), by new forms of relationship between urban and rural contexts. Modern rurality is frequently considered to be a positive situation because it represents a new vitality for declining social organisations. Within the EU, upgrade of rural development has been identified as the second pillar of the Common Agricultural Policy with a purpose to diversify the rural economy, and improve the quality of life. Promotion of culture, tourism and recreation was officially declared as a vital part of rural development policy.
The post-industrial rurality based predominantly on consumption involves different forms of land-use consumption, concerns over the environment, and the rise of rural tourism. Rural tourism is not a new phenomenon. From the late 19th century onwards, Czech rural areas were integral part and target of domestic tourism, which comprised individual ownership of second homes (cottages, weekend houses/chalets) and/or corporate possessions in terms of holiday camps and recreational resorts during the socialist era. In Czechoslovakia, the phenomenon of second home ownership was exclusively associated with the most common way of domestic leisure in the communist era: cottageing (Bičík 2001; Vágner, Fialová 2004, 2005, 2009), which was above all a form of escapism by the locals from the straightjacket of the communist regime into the private (Horáková 2010b). However, it is only since the 1990s that tourism assumed a more
central role and rural space has emerged as a significant element of incoming tourism. New, alternative forms of tourism such as ecotourism, green-, or international nature-based tourism are above all the outcome of the shift from Fordist production to post-Fordist consumption, or to second modernity characterized by society´s desire for new types of experiences and entertainment. Romeiß–Stracke (2003) uses in this respect the term ‘society of meaning’ for which recreation in rural countryside serves as one of the illustrating examples of leisure-time activities.
The traditional countryside characterized by a dominant agricultural sector and associated settlement patterns has been reshaped by the declining role of agrarian economy and local manufacture. As a result, it has become less a place of agricultural production and more an object of consumption, whether by tourists, conservationists, or incoming residents (Sharpley 2004). The transformation of rural landscape for tourism purposes has yielded new geographies of tourism. Novel uses of natural environment include, above all, a rapid growth of international nature-based tourism whose aim is to meet the needs of urbanized and industrialized societies. A case in point are Dutch tourists seeking vacations in a Czech post-communist ‘natural’ environment. To secure a livelihood by diversifying their agricultural activities, Czech rural
populations increasingly offer their assets - public space, ‘rustic culture’ and landscape - to international forms of tourism.
Basically, there are two types of Dutch nature-based tourism. Firstly, individual ownership of second homes owned by the Dutch in Czech rural countryside, and secondly, international tourism in recreational parks initiated by Dutch investors, attracting predominantly Dutch clientele. As for the former, the recent foreign (predominantly Dutch) purchase of country vacation homes has become common throughout Czech rural areas. As for the latter, rural communities are selling their vacant farmlands, abandoned agricultural fields and meadows to foreigners seeking to build new recreational complexes that have been commonly named as ‘Dutch villages’ (Horáková 2010a, b; Fialová, Kadlecová 2007; Fialová et al 2009; Nožičková 2010, 2011).
The frequent outflow of original rural inhabitants is compensated for the influx of other people (usually urbanites) who are moving into rural areas either temporarily or with the intention for permanent residence (‘amenity migration,’ see Bartoš, Kušová 2005; Moss 2006). These in-movers often have different perspectives and ideas on how local development should be achieved and maintained and what a ‘better quality of life’ means. Current restructuring processes in rural areas can challenge old identities and provide an
opportunity for the construction of new identities, or the strengthening of existing identities utilising existing resources (Hannon and Curtin 2009) and activating of social capital ( Halpern 2005; Hampl, Dostál, Drbohlav 2007).
Our attention is focused on the processes of transformation and the strategies of development of five Czech rural communities that are affected by the two abovementioned forms of Dutch tourism: Dutch second home ownership and recreational complexes that have been built right within the village territories. The project will build on the partial results of two recently completed research projects conducted by the applicant: the FRVS F5/c research project entitled Anthropology of Tourism (2008), and the Specific-science grant project entitled Social Anthropology of the European Union: Changing Local Communities (2006).The project will expand on the ongoing research project GAČR 403/09/1491 (2009-2011) The significance of tourist function of settlements and municipalities in the process of formation of regional identity and identity of regions in CR conducted by the co-applicant.