For over 100 years, rural tourism has developed from sight-seeing and vacation spending at farms to folklore culture, experience and participation, and health preservation around the world. Although rural tourism started late in China, it has distinct characteristics, involving almost all aspects of farming, forestry, animal husbandry and fishery. Mountain ecology and rural tourism have gradually become one of the main forms of tourism. Along the continuous growth of China's comprehensive national strength and the improvement of people's living standard, rural tourism has become an important way of the people for leisure and vacation, an important force for development of rural economy and an important means for farmers to increase incomes.
During the early days of rural tourism, more attention was paid to increasing farmers' incomes, which was inevitable considering the circumstances at that time. However, protection and development must be combined, and development must be subordinated to protection, which is the concept of eco-tourism development.
According to statistics, rural tourism attracted 1.5 billion visitors, accounting for about 1/3 of the number of domestic tourists in China; revenues from rural tourism reached about RMB 400 billion yuan; about 80 million rural residents were directly engaged in rural tourism; and the increase in incomes per capital exceeded RMB 10,000 yuan in 2016. It is expected that there will be 150,000 rural tourism villages, 3 million hotels/restaurants based on farming, fishing and pasture families, and over 2 billion tourists of rural tourism in China by 2020.
Protection of the ecology and environment is also on the agenda of eco-tourism development, when more and more people pour in the countryside and mountainous areas, where the most of the tourism resources are located in China.
"The core of mountain tourism and rural tourism is ecology, which is beautiful but fragile. Is it ready for the arrival of waves of tourists brought about by high-speed railways?" Some experts believe that the focus of mountain tourism and rural tourism is ecological resources and ethnic culture, which are fragile and would disappear soon with the advent of tourism if we cannot get rid of the fast-food like development mode of tourism as soon as possible. Culture is the soul of mountain and rural tourism. Preservation of culture is not only about protection but long-term investment. Keeping our pace slow and preserving the resources are the only way for sustaining the fragile culture and ecological tourism.
The development of tourism often implies crisis of the ecological environment having attracted wide attention around the world. The German's answer is to turn environmental protection into details of daily life and make garbage a treasure. Peter Michael Heck, Professor of German Trier University said: "whether the tourism is sustainable depends on availability of the infrastructure for wastes, sewage and others, when primitive ecology and cultural landscapes attract a large influx of tourists. He suggested that development should follow the principle of "zero emission and zero pollution, by converting wastes into resources. The concept of circular economy may be applied in eco-tourism, respecting the natural heritages and local residents as well as the local receiving capacity, and guiding new demand of consumers.