Association for the Development of Social & Wellness Tourism


According to the International Social Tourism Organisation (ISTO) social tourism can be defined as "the connections and phenomena related to the participation of people in the countries of destinations as well as of holidaymakers, of disadvantaged layers of society or those unable to participate in tourism, holidays and their advantages for whatever reason".

A more operational definition, as suggested by professor Louis Jolin from the University of Québec in Montreal, indicates that social tourism "refers to programmes, events, and activities that enable all population groups – and particularly youth, families, retirees, individuals with modest incomes, and individuals with restricted physical capacity – to enjoy tourism, while also attending to the quality of relations between visitors and host communities".

Concerning the main benefits of social tourism
The ISTO presents the benefits of social tourism within four main axes:

  • Social tourism is "a shaper of society" as "holidays and travel can provide particularly apt occasions for personal enrichment, through the discovery of new places, cultures and civilizations, through physical, artistic, sport and leisure activities, by meeting people across educational or generation divides, and by other responsibilities taken on freely by tourists".
  • Social tourism is a promoter of economic growth: "tourism for all is a key to economic strength which generates a continuous flow of people and investment, which contributes to regional development".
  • Social tourism participates to the regional and local development by "reconciling tourism development, environmental protection and a respect for the identity of local communities".
  • Social tourism is a partner in global development programs: "tourism, when it is controlled and when it respects the natural and cultural environment and local communities, constitutes one of the economic, social and cultural hopes of many developing countries".

Furthermore studies show that social tourism has a tremendous impact on families (Minneart, Metland, Miller, 2009)

Social tourism was found to increase family capital in the short term, and social capital – in terms of social networks, related pro-active behavior and self-esteem - in the medium term. These increases can be seen as beneficial for the participants and to wider society. Consequently it is suggested that social tourism may be a cost-effective addition to social policy.

The family capital is the relationships between the family members and their resilience when faced with adversity. Both adults and children benefited from an increase in family capital, which could encourage the adults to change parenting techniques and encourage a more active lifestyle for the family (for example, going out more). For the children this could lead to better behaviour both at home and at school.

The raise of the social capital of is the increase of the valuable relations between the individual and the world surrounding him or her. Ways in which an increase in social capital can manifest itself include improvements in self-confidence, extension of support networks, new ways of prioritizing duties, changes in work circumstances, and better budgeting skills.

The importance of the civil society implication in a social tourism directed towards families is exemplified by British national charity, the Family Holiday Association (FHA) which promotes holidays for disadvantaged families. Poverty is the principal reason for one out of three people in the UK not going on holiday at all. The FHA was set up in 1975 to provide grants that would make a holiday possible for this group. In 2007, the FHA enabled around 1400 families to go on holiday and over 100,000 people have been helped since its foundation. The FHA has a high profile in the industry, with strong support from ABTA and AITO. It is funded largely by individual donations, but is also helped by trusts, corporate donations and income received from fundraising events.

Its actions are based on the belief that holidays benefit individuals as well as wider society because they:

  • improve well-being and reduce stress
  • increase self-esteem and confidence
  • strengthen family communication and bonding
  • provide new skills, widen perspectives and enhance employability
  • give long-lasting, treasured memories
  • result in happier, stronger families and a more inclusive society.

Further information:

Social tourism in Romania

There are two main public actors in the Romanian social tourism field:

  • 1. The principal support system for young people is the youth camp system managed by the Ministry for Education, Youth, Sport and Research. But the national youth camp offer is quite expensive for Romanian students and the accommodations conditions are often of low/very low quality.
  • 2. Romania has also re-launched in July 2014 its holiday voucher programme that is open to all public institutions and all private firms. All the employees and the public servants can benefit from the holiday vouchers program if their company or the public institution has decided so.

The holiday vouchers are bought directly to the Tourism National Authority by the firms who distribute them to their employees. The holiday vouchers are fiscally deductible. The firms purchase the holiday vouchers and there is no participation of the employees and no grant from the State.

The previous limitation (the firm must have made profit during its preceding fiscal year) is now abrogated but the vouchers can be used only to buy national tourism products. The maximum amount of the voucher is of six minimum gross salaries which means around 1250 Euros and the fee commission of the Travel Agency, when it is the case, cannot exceed 10% of the tourism product value.