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Andalusian Network of Rural Accommodation

Crowded beaches, built-up coastlines and pollution. This is the dream holiday in which millions of people invest their savings each year. If you’re looking for a typical package holiday, than that’s fine. But why not consider the alternatives that Andalusia has to offer? You’ll find many of them in the Andalusian Network of Rural Accommodation.


By:  Laura Gris
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Red Andaluza de Alojamientos Rurales (RAAR)
Association
Birth: 1991
Directed by: Francisco Javier Cansinos
Location: Almeria
Stands out for: supporting the rural environment as an alternative tourist destination

The Andalusian Network of Rural Accommodation (RAAR) is made up of over 500 choices of rural accommodation. 500 opportunities to escape the overcrowding and stress of the city. An alternative to tourists to the region, only two decades ago rural accommodation was considered as merely a specialized segment of the range of holiday choices on offer. Nowadays it’s a fully fledged sector in its own right. This association, one of the first to be established in Andalusia, has created a platform where users can discover and book from a wide selection of options.

Founded in 1991 with the firm objective to highlight the value of rural Andalusia. “The nature reserves of Sierras de Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama, Sierra Mágina and the Sierras Subbéticas have only recently been discovered. The area contains several cave hotels, some with hammams or unique decoration, and all with a distinctive air about them,” explains Francisco Javier Cansinos, director of RAAR. Of the wide range of establishments brought together by the association, 70% are entire rental properties and 30% rooms in small hotels or shared premises. What do they have in common? To qualify for membership, they have to adhere to minimum quality requirements. These are then translated into - wait for it - Olives; an original way to rank the many member establishments according to their condition, location and services they offer.

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So what can you expect when you look through their catalogue? Infinity pools overlooking the sea, four-poster beds, fireplaces, spectacular views tantamount to paintings from the Romantic era. Attractive and serene rural establishments made of stone and wood in the midst of immense green nothingness. Locations in which it seems as if your senses have at last come alive after long months of hibernation. The options on offer are becoming increasingly imaginative. “There has been a clear shift in the taste of travellers to the region,” explains Cansinos. “Not only are they on the look-out for rural accommodation surrounded by nature, but they also want extras such as stylish decor, in-house spas and recreational activities”.

Not only does RAAR help visitors explore the interior of Andalusia, but it also offers services to promoters themselves to help them run their establishments effectively. They also offer guidance to start-ups in the sector. The association also functions as a promotional network via its printed catalogue and website. Functions have also included the organizing of the First European Congress on Rural Tourism in Jaén, workshops on the prevention of risks and European training projects.

One of their most interesting initiatives is Natura 2000, a Europe-wide network of protected areas maintained according to the same standards in all 27 European Union countries. “Besides promoting the environmental quality of these spaces, we wanted to be able to publicise specific accommodation and activities amongst users interested in getting to know the locations in person,” explains Cansinos.

Bird-watching, horseback adventures, courses to teach you to recognise medicinal herbs and hiking are some of the activities RAAR members have organized within the varied landscapes of Andalusian. “Until now all the projects in motion were strictly conservation projects,” comments the director of RAAR. “They were providing information about the flora and fauna, but without linking it to the entrepreneurs working and providing services in the area”.

The crisis is wreaking havoc in the tourist sector, but at RAAR they aren’t throwing in the towel. Some establishments are having to reinvent themselves and others have closed down. However, Cansinos has faith in the continued growth in demand for rural accommodation. Why? “It’s a more enriching experience. Local and short-haul tourism has been least affected by the crisis. While urban environments continue to be hostile, people will continue to need an escape from the city”.

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