For those who were born in the city and have left to live in the countryside or at the seaside (known as “neo-rurals”) it has meant the fulfillment of a dream.
“The cooperative was the kind of business we most liked”, comments María José who, together with friends and family, runs a cooperative which is governed by ecological criteria in the Sierra to the north of Madrid. “We were all from the city. We went to the sierra in search of a healthier life, but we were working for others. When we formed the cooperative we wanted to have our own company, and we began with five members, friends and family”. Although they are now three, María José and her colleagues have been running the cooperative for twelve years. The business is profitable and they have been able to live far away from the noise and stress.
In Valencia, for the cooperatives in the tourist sector (worker cooperatives and agricultural cooperatives), it has meant an investment of more than 8.4 million euros between 1994 and 2006, according to a study conducted by the International Centre of Research and Information on the Public, Social and Cooperative Economy (CIRIEC). They are mostly young companies (more than half are less than five years old), small in size (with about 4 members) and normally involved in more than one activity (environmental education, heritage conservation, the recovery of professions and traditions, school farms, etc.). For many years, the worker cooperatives have functioned as an alternative to the socio-economic changes which have taken place in the rural milieu, such as the decline in agricultural activities, the distancing between producer and consumer and the pressure of a form of tourism which shows little respect for the environment.
More houses, fewer hotels
In Galicia, they represent a great opportunity. According to the latest study by the Statistics Institute of Galicia, last December rural tourism establishments in the Community registered an increase in occupation of 16.5% in comparison with the same month the year before (they received about 10,500 visitors) while hotels underwent a reverse tendency, with a slight inter-annual fall of 0.8%. These are the kind of services which have managed to obtain the most quality seals for Cooperative Social Responsibility from the European Union.