Currently, one of the priorities of the state policy of the Russian Federation is the sustainable development of rural areas. Rural tourism undoubtedly contributes to this development, therefore, it has now been named a priority type of tourism. But despite this, the mechanisms of its support and development have not been developed at the Federal and regional levels, which significantly hinders the process of formation of rural tourism. The paper analyses the existing problems in the field of rural development on the materials of the Stavropol region, one of the most agrarian-developed regions of Russia. The paper highlights such threats to sustainable development as unemployment and depopulation, as well as practical ways to diversify traditional sources of income of the rural population through the development of an alternative activity – rural tourism.