Turismo social

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(For full text and references please refer to MINNAERT, L., MAITLAND, R. & MILLER,
G. (2009), “Tourism and social policy – The value of social tourism”, in: “Annals of
Tourism Research”, Vol. 36, nº 2, 316-334)


“Social tourism” is a term used to describe a wide variety of holiday types, destinationsand target groups: social tourism initiatives can be commercial and non-commercial,
governmental and private. They range from small charities organising holidays for children
from low-income backgrounds, over government plans improving accessibility in hotels, to
private tour operators offering ecological holidays. What all of these initiatives have in
common, is that they bring a moraldimension to tourism, and that their primary aim is to
include people in tourism who would otherwise be excluded from it. This text will focus
particularly on one of these groups: low-income families with children, who cannot afford
to go on holiday without support.


Supporters of visitor-related social tourism for low-income groupslike to view this type of
social tourism as a potential measure in the fight against social exclusion. This view was
recently supported by the European Economic and Social Committee, which, in its
Barcelona declaration, links social tourism to a set of benefits, which include improvement
of well-being, personal development of the beneficiaries and the host community,
Europeancitizenship, improved health and increased employment opportunities (EESC
2006, 73).

In several countries of mainland Europe (for example France, Belgium, Spain), social
tourism – mostly in the form of low-cost, national holidays- is supported by public funding.
In Britain and the US, social tourism for low-income groups is a less well-known
phenomenon, and rarely supported by governmentfunding. This can be linked to the fact
that these are liberal and more “individualized” societies, where without clear research
evidence of the benefits of social tourism for society, no public funding can be justified. In
the UK for example, there currently seems very little government policy interest in the
topic: “Tourism for All”, albeit mainly focused on enabling access to tourism forpersons
with disabilities, is a topic in the 1999 “Tomorrow’s Tourism” policy (DCMS 1999, 79); but
in the 2004 follow-up policy document, “Tomorrow’s Tourism Today”, there is no reference
to it (DCMS 2004). Assistance to the disadvantaged is largely confined to grants from
charitable bodies (Smith and Hughes 1999, 132), although some local authorities make
contributions to holidays.3. RESEARCH EVIDENCE

An extensive study was carried out with the support of the Family Holiday
Association, a London-based social tourism charity, which provides about 1100
families per year in the UK with a holiday. All these families are on a low income,
and can be affected by various social problems: they can be carers for disabled
children, asylum seekers, women who have fled aviolent relationship, persons
affected by HIV or people with mental health problems. Holidays usually last one
week, and the great majority of them are taken in Britain, often in basic, self-
catering holiday parks at the seaside in the low season. Most families go on an
individual holiday, unaccompanied by a welfare agent, but social organizations can
also apply for funding for groupholidays they organize themselves. Welfare agents
would usually accompany the group holidays, and often organize activities.

To protect the privacy of the participants, the welfare agents were first approached
for help when selecting participants for the research. They were sent information
letters about the research, and were called up individually. They were then asked
to provide...
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