Getting away from it all is something we all need for our health and wellbeing. But not everyone has the means of doing this. Being excluded as a tourist goes beyond physical and other levels of capability. It extends to people without the money to have a holiday. But it goes further than that. In developed countries the concept is applied to people looking for low cost tourism. In developing countries the focus is on the visited community rather than the visitor. This is “social tourism”.
An article on social tourism discusses how the concept has changed over time. It can help both the visitor and the visited community under the banner of Tourism for All. Socially sustainable tourism, community-based tourism and volunteering tourism have also fallen under the banner of social tourism. Consequently, in the literature, social tourism is not clearly expressed as tourism for people who are disadvantaged.
The term ‘social tourism’ has been ambiguously interpreted since its inception in the early 20th century, when the focus of tourism was mainly for the financially disadvantaged and socially excluded travellers. Such concept was indeed important to increase social participation in tourism through social and political interventions.
Tourism today has transformed with several innovative business ideas, diverse stakeholder participation, new forms of tourism involving the ageing population and people with disability, decreased cost of travelling that allows the inclusion of more middle income groups in leisure trips, rapid growth of tourism in emerging economies, and the recognition of tourism as more than a luxury phenomenon.
Literature rarely discusses the inclusive aspects of social tourism when new forms of tourism arise. This study attempts to describe three aspects of social tourism: (a) how social tourism is perceived in different socio-cultural and geographical settings; (b) what are the excluded elements of social tourism; and (c) change in demography of potential socially excluded groups. The study also explains the trends of special forms of tourism and its relevance to social tourism inclusion. The paper offers a wider theoretical engagement and understanding of a growing shift in patterns of social tourism and touristic experience in the present and future.
See also the book, Handbook of Social Tourism. The synopsis reads, “This thought-provoking Handbook considers the impact and challenges that social tourism has on people’s lives, integrating case studies from around the world. Showcasing the latest research on the topic and its role in tackling the challenges of tourism development, chapters explore the opportunities presented by social tourism and illustrate the social imperative of tourism as a force for good”.