The paper intends to study the environmental impacts and sustainable development of rural tourism. As Wall (2006) mentions, there are large quantities of research papers on economic impacts of tourism. Besides, considerable statistics greatly ease the analyses and measurements. The environmental impacts of tourism have been paid more and more attention in recent years; but due to debate on indicators and some other objective barriers, they are hard to measure. Yet there is no doubt that studies on environmental impacts contribute more to sustainable development of tourism. Nowadays, with the ever-increasing urban population, more and more people are engaging in tourism in leisure time to relax and escape from a fast-pace city life. This promotes rural tourism. Rural tourism, as a relatively new subsector in tourism industry, therefore bears some research value in terms of environmental impact assessment.
According to the definition provided by World Tourism Organization (1995) in its technical manual, tourism refers to "traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes" (p. 10). It is commonly agreed that the distance should be above 80km from home, the stay should be more than one day, and the tour itself is not for remuneration. Besides, tourism can be classified into leisure tourism, visiting relatives and friends, and business tourism based on different motivations.
Specifically, rural tourism refers tourism to rural areas. And more often than not, the motivations of rural tourism are for leisure and visiting friends and relatives.
Sustainable development, according to Encyclopedia of Business in Today’s World, refers to development where people protect environment in such a way that the environment can content both current and future needs. The concept, confirmed in the early 1990s, is