|Title||Social Tourism: a potential policy to reduce social exclusion? The effects of visitor-related social tourism for low-income groups on personal and family development|
This study discusses the effects of social tourism for low-income groups on personal and family development. it examines whether social tourism has wider benefits than just providing access to holidays to groups who would usually be excluded from tourism, and whether it could be seen as a potential measure against social exclusion. If social tourism can reduce social exclusion, it benefits not only the participants, but also has wider benefits for society.
In several countries in mainland Europe, such as France, Belgium and Spain, social tourism for low-income groups is supported by public funding. This investment is usually supported by claims that social tourism can help excluded groups achieve greater inclusion through increased confidence, better family relations, greater independence and wider social networks. At present, these claims are rarely supported by research evidence: in academic tourism literature, social tourism for low-income groups is a little researched field. The aim of this study is thus to investigate whether social tourism can indeed reduce aspects of social exclusion, and have a beneficial effect on the holiday participants themselves, and through them, on society. If this is the case, the study will explore whether social tourism could be justified as a social policy.
The study will start by defining the concept of social tourism, and categorise the different forms. Focusing on social tourism for low-income groups, it will then explore the potential ethical foundations of social tourism. It will be shown that for a number of ethical theories, social tourism for low-income groups can only be justified if there are benefits involved not only for the participants, but also wider benefits for society. Because these benefits could present themselves as a reduction of social exclusion, the concept of social exclusion is defined and the different views of the concept are presented. One of these views is potentially compatible with social tourism, on the condition that social holidays can reduce certain characteristics of excluded groups, that form the basis of their exclusion. It will then be argued that if social tourism can reduce these characteristics, it does so via a learning process. Two theories of leaming through experience will be examined, and strategies to maximise learning will be discussed: if social tourism is indeed a form of leaming, the benefits could be increased by
maximising learning. These theoretical foundations formed the basis of the fieldwork for this study.
In the fieldwork, a group of social tourism participants and their support workers was interviewed in two stages: a first round of interviews and focus groups were conducted in the first month after the holidays; a second round was carried out in the sixth month after the holidays. Participants in individual holidays and support workers were interviewed individually, participants in group holidays were interviewed together in a focus group. The aim of the two rounds was to examine the effects of social tourism in the short term, and in the longer term.
The findings of the fieldwork examine the effects of social tourism for low-income groups, and investigate the conditions for successful social tourism provision (meaning holidays that maximise learning opportunities to reduce aspects of social exclusion). The findings indicate that social tourism for low-income groups generally has beneficial effects on the family development of the participants in the short and the long term. They also provide benefits for the personal development of participants, which are present in the short term and can develop further in the long term. In the long term, it is also shown that the holiday can act as a motivational factor in measurable behaviour change, resulting into a reduction of factors of social exclusion. It is found that an adequate level of support both during and after the holiday is an important condition for successful social holidays.
This study concludes by exploring if social tourism could be justified as a part of social policy. The costs of social holidays will be compared to other social measures with similar aims and outcomes. Social tourism for low-income groups will be presented as potential cost-effective strategies to counter certain aspects social exclusion.