RURAL tourism businesses are taking the lead in the use of new technologies such as the internet and mobile phone texting services.
The findings form part of a new report published this week by the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), which shows that technology is playing an increasing role for tourism businesses.
A key finding from the CLA's Rural Tourism Confidence Index survey is that 30% of operators now view ICT as integral to attracting customers and improving the competitiveness of their business.
In an increase on the previous year, the 2005 survey sees 90% as "quite to very confident" in the short to medium term future of their rural tourism business, an increase of 6%.
Charles Trotman, CLA Rural Economy Adviser said: "It comes as no surprise that rural tourism operators are at the forefront in using new technology to improve competitiveness and efficiency in their business operations. This is bound to increase as the general public begins to experience the significant advantages new technology brings to everyday life."
The survey also reveals that 67% of businesses were constrained in some way. 28% believed they were held back by planning regulations, 22% by red tape and 17% by a lack of capital investment.
The CLA believes that more needs to be done to help rural tourism operators to benefit from the advantages of new technology. This includes better provision of broadband connectivity. There is clear evidence, the Association states, that greater training provision in ICT would be a major asset to operators.
Mr Trotman continued: "What is more encouraging however, is that the increased coverage of broadband in rural areas - something that the CLA was instrumental in securing during its successful broadband Britain campaign - has meant that rural tourism operators are finally beginning to fully engage with their customers.
"But it is clear that more training and education is required for the full potential of the internet to be realised so that the sector's contribution of £16 billion a year to the rural economy can increase."
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