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Social Class: does a person's social class determine the type of tourism they can enjoy?

Social Class: does a person's social class determine the type of tourism they can enjoy?
Author: Sara White
6 Commentries
Tourism forms a large part of today's society; 'Tourism and travel has been part of the human experience for millennia'. Smith, (2004, p25). One of the factors that can prevent people from tourism is social class. Lumsdon, (in Page 2009) suggests that 'social class is considered to be one of the most important external factors, assessed primarily by occupation and level of income.' This paper will investigate social class and will analyse whether it affects ones ability to travel. The paper focuses upon cruise tourism, looking into the history of it. Accessibility to tourism has been previously studied although much of the focus has been placed on ones ability to access tourism if they suffer from a disability. This therefore creates a gap where social class can be further studied and discussed. Defining social class is also very important; Page and Connell (2009) state that social class has several components, including power, money, prestige, culture and background. The definition now commonly used consists of six components. These include:
A: Professional/ senior managerial
B: Middle managers/ executives
C1: Junior managers/ non manual
C2: Skilled manual
D: Semi skilled/ unskilled
E: Unemployed/ state dependants
Taken from Page and Connell (2009).

It has been suggested by Page and Connell (2009) that these classifications have an influence on a persons tourism patterns. What is not taken into consideration with the above scale stating classes is which stage in the life cycle a person is. For example, a person who comes under the category C1 or C2 may be younger and have more children to consider that an older person that has no dependents. See Figure 1 for example of family lifecycle taken from Pizam and Mansfeld (1999)
0 Not classifiable
1 Young single (under 25)
2 Young couples (no children)
3 Full nest I (with preschool children)
4 Full nest II (school-age children)
5 Full nest III (older children, possibly non-dependent)
6 Empty nest I (still working, no children)
7 Empty nest II (retired)
8 Solitary survivor (retired)

It was the working class resorts became known as mass tourism destinations, they were thought of as places of inferiority, which stood for everything that the dominant social groups held to be tasteless, common and vulgar.

Urry (2002) found that those of a lower social class travelled to different places to those that had a higher class. The middle classes tend to enjoy a different sort of holiday; there is the attraction of 'real' and 'natural' holidays.

When going back a couple of hundred years it would have been very difficult for the working class to ever be able to afford a holiday to the seaside; however, in the nineteenth century there was a considerable increase in economic welfare of the industrial population. (Deane and Cole, 1962).
Bourdieu argues that different social classes have a different approach to pleasure; he states that the new middle class group 'urges a morality of pleasure as a duty, pleasure is not only permitted but demanded' (Bordieu, 1984, p367).

The RMS Titanic shows the class barriers that have existed in the past. According to think quest (no date) it states that the third class passengers were thought very little of, there were barriers that prevented them from mixing with the other higher class passengers; it was these physical barriers that caused many of the fatalities. The cruise industry has been expanding for many years, and according to academics such as Dwyer and Forsyth, (1998) they say that it is a constantly growing segment of tourism. Cruise tourism has the main purpose of the leisure and recreation of its passengers, rather than the aim of transporting them. (Douglas and Douglas, 2004). According to Douglas and Douglas (2004), they state that tourism used to be for the aristocracy. According to Cruise Mates (2000) they state that cruises did used to be aimed at both the wealthy and the elderly. However, this is not now the case. They state that those that seek cruise holidays now are looking for cultural enrichment.

There are many different types of cruises available to people today, and they cater to all social classes; there are very exclusive and expensive cruise liners right down to more simple cruises.
One particular cruise provider is Ocean Village; they are helping to eliminate the barrier of social class by having promotional offers; these include campaigns such as receiving free travel money on Mediterranean cruises. Royal Caribbean offer something different; rock climbing and ice skating on board their ships; these were a first on board cruise ships.

There are many benefits to choosing a cruise; there is a lot included in the price of cruising; often they are all inclusive for passengers. This means budgeting is not an issue.

Through looking back at the research that has been presented throughout this paper; it seems that cruise tourism has developed greatly since it began. It used to be specifically for the upper classes; a cruise required a lot of free time and disposable income. This was due to having more free time to enjoy on leisure activities. The cruise industry has developed with the rest of the world, technological advances have meant that Internet bookings are possible and it is here that many of the deals and offers are promoted. There are cruise holiday companies of course that do cater for the more elite and exclusive groups of people, however there are more companies than ever to cater for everyone's needs. It is no longer a question of being able to afford the holiday, but which one to choose.


Bourdieu, P. (1984) Distinction. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Cruise Mates (2000) is cruising for me? [Online] [Accessed 22nd April 2010] Available at <http://www.cruisemates.com/articles/before/is-it-4-me.cfm>

Deane, P., and Cole, W.A. (1962) British economic growth, 1688-1959. Cambridge: Cambridge university press.

Dwyer, L., and Forsyth, P. (1998) Economic significance of cruise tourism. Annals of tourism research. 25(2) pp 393-415
Easy Cruises (no date) About us- Easy Cruises [Online] [Accessed 22nd April 2010] Available at < http://easycruise.com/pAboutUs.aspx?cltid=1 >

Pizam, A. and Mansfeld, Y. (Eds) (1999) Consumer Behaviour in Travel and Tourism. NY: The Haworth Press.

Royal Caribbean (2005) Royal Caribbean Cruises [Online] [Accessed 22nd April 2010] Available at < http://www.royalcarib.com/ >

Smith, S,L,J. (2004) 'The measurement of global tourism, old debates , new consensus and continuing challenges' in Lew, A., Hall C, M., and Williams, A (eds). A companion to tourism. Oxford: Blackwell

Think Quest (no date) Titanic Exposed [Online] [Accessed 21st April 2010] Available at < http://library.thinkquest.org/20502/data/liner2frames.html>

Urry, J. (2002) The Tourist Gaze. 2nd ed. California: SAGE publications.
What if lower classes want luxury too?
Author: Katja-Mirjami Tuominen
I find your approach to the issue of barriers to travel through focussing on cruises an interesting one. Social class and life stage have certainly been found to be significant factors in the type of holidays people choose to take, and cruises are a good example of a type of holiday that has until recently been thought to be something only the elite could afford.

You say it's "no longer a question of being able to afford the holiday, but which one to choose". Although cruise companies have started to cater for the lower classes with promotional offers and companies such as EasyCruise have emerged, the issue of low income is still there. The choice of cruises is certainly larger than it has ever been but who is the choice provided for? Middle classes and others with time and money in their hands are free to pick from a variety of cruises but those with low incomes are restricted to the cheapest one; if they can even afford that.

It is true what Urry says about lower social classes travelling to different destinations to those from higher classes, but to say the middle classes enjoy a different kind of a holiday I think is debatable. Is it not a question of wider choice and access to different options for those with more money? Would those living with low incomes not prefer to take a luxury holiday to the Bahamas instead of going to Blackpool if they could afford it? It is oversimplifying the matter, but someone should ask what the holiday preferences of members of each social class are regardless of what is in their reach to answer these questions.

A large number of people in the UK are disadvantaged due to a variety of reasons but mainly miss out on a holiday because they simply cannot afford it. There is a group that will benefit from the cheaper cruises and promotional offers, but there is a group even more disadvantaged, a group that cannot replace a common, lower class holiday with a nice cruise that has not previously been in their reach.

As important as it is to provide people with wider choice and better options there is still the issue of those that simply are excluded from taking part in tourism altogether. Essentially, you say that cruises cater to all social classes which is not the case in my opinion. However, I think more inclusive cruises are a step to the right direction in terms of socially inclusive tourism.

An interesting read all in all. On a final note, I was looking forward to reading a bit more about the stage in a life cycle and the impact it has on the choice of a cruise holiday.
A New Generation?
Author: Faye Coulson
I particularly enjoyed reading this paper as it showed similar ideas I had portrayed in my own.

The idea of cruise tourism is an interesting subject and that it has become to evolve over the years in an attempt to cater for all tourists across all classes in society. You provide a variety of research that shows that social class has evolved. It shows an interesting insight to peoples choices in relation to their social class. I do find it difficult to understand that because of your social class, you appear to feel different about tourism and have different choices of holidays. It is not your psychological state that is affected; it's the financial position is what affects the person from going on holiday and has been shown to be the most influential constraint that restricts people from taking part in tourism.

People are restricted from tourism for a variety of reasons and can result in exclusion from society and cause breakdown in social relationships. The breakdown of the social class you provide in the paper, although it is dated, it is useful and also shows how people are stereotyped and therefore segregated in terms of their access to tourism. These categories are still seen today in societies therefore showing a need for change. Using the Titanic is very good example to demonstrate social exclusion. It shows how back then people were highly excluded even to the point where they did not even speak to each other.

It is great to see that cruise tourism is evolving and that they are trying to make it for all people. Making tourism for all is now an important interest and is being incorporated in to UK policies and it shows that cruise providers are trying to do the same. However, does offering a cheaper option for smaller budgets mean that it is poorer in quality? Exclusion is still going to be apparent here as even though they are going on the 'once in a lifetime' cruise, they are still going to experience poorer quality that of the people that can afford to spend thousands of pounds.

I feel that this paper warrants further research. It is interesting how classes have been believed to evolve but is this entirely the case? Even though cruising providers say that they offer holidays for all ranges of budgets, it does not come to say that the quality could potentially change also. It could also be potentially hard to change the traditional image of cruise tourism and trying to attract the lower and working classes. Cruising was mainly for the rich that had made it hard to access; meaning that would the 'inferior' want to be there as they would feel uncomfortable and/ or feel different. Exclusion is still seen today whether it be on the basis on class, race, religion etc. There are many deprived areas within the UK that experience restricted access to areas such as benefits from public spending and access to leisure activities such as tourism. Tourism is now an essential and has a large influence in economically advanced societies. The UK needs to adopt the idea of social tourism; enabling all people from all background to be able to go on holiday. But the question could be that are they actually interested?
Making compromises in order to become part of the experience...
Author: Victoria Brieske

The chosen topic of this paper is a very interesting one and the up-to-date relevance of the topic caught my eye, as the sector of cruises was the most developing one in the whole tourism industry with growth rates on the European market of 17.5% in cruise passengers during the year 2007 (Papathanassis, 2009). The evidence of independent reading is obvious, as well as the examination of the theoretical basis of social classification is well done. But the questions which came to my mind were whether people who belong to the D and E category of Page's and Connell's (2009) standardisation are really considering to choose a cruise as a way of holiday even if other, cheaper cruise operators are appearing on the market of cruises.

To my mind, nowadays distinction of cruise lines is not only about the disposable income of the traveller although there is a general classification, mentioned by Cartwright and Baird (1999), which distinguishes between mainstream, premium and luxury lines. But it is more about targeting potential consumers with different demands in order to be able to satisfy them. There are cruise ships which refer to the classical target group of costumers who prefer a noble atmosphere and are usually elderly and experienced travellers, such as "The Queen Mary 2" or "Queen Victoria" of Cunard Cruise Lines or the cruisers of "Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines" which offer an ice rink and a climbing wall. This cruise company then again is targeting a more active and usually younger consumer group but targeting by no means a consumer group which is segmented in the area of the previous mentioned D and E class.

One suggestion I would like to make at this stage is that I would have either focussed a little bit more on the impact of the life cycle on the tourism behaviour (as already stated in the comment before) or would have developed the topic of cruises in particular a little bit more. A critical examination of supposed cheap cruise operators like "easyCruise" and an evaluation if they can serve as a real alternative to luxurious and expensive cruises for, so far disadvantaged social classes would have been interesting and useful to my mind.

If we look at the example of "easyCruise" in particular it can be said that the fact that cruises "often are all inclusive for passengers", what you have mentioned in your paper, is a benefit which cannot be applied to this company. The price customers have to pay only includes the transport and accommodation performance, food and beverages, as well as shore excursions have to be paid additionally. The interior of the cabins is described and compared to hostel rooms (Coffman, 2005). In this case it remains questionably if this is an alternative to general cruises where, how you stated in your conference paper, the focus is laid on the experience and recreation on the cruise ship itself. As a consequence the savings, which are carried out, are made at the expense of the experience, which distinguish the cruise from other ways of travelling.

So in the end it seems as if it is neither a question of being able to afford this kind of holiday, nor which one to choose. But it is more about to what extent travellers are willing to make compromises in order to save money and after all are willing to distance themselves again from those who are able to afford a "real" cruise.


Cartwright, R., Baird, C. (1999) The Development and Growth of the Cruise Industry. Oxford: Butterworth and Heinemann.

Coffman, L. (2005) What Cruise Line is Right for You? [online] Available from: http//:www.fodors.com (Accessed: 30 April 2010).

EasyCruise (2008) About Us [online] Available from: http//:www.easycruise.com (Accessed: 30 April 2010).

Papathanassis, A. (2009) Managing Emerging Markets Human Resources, Processes and Systems. Wiesbaden: Gabler Verlag.

Not everyone can afford a cruise...even he/she would like to...
Author: Susanne Nass
Sara, I like your approach to the whole issue of social class and the connection with tourism better say the connection with cruises. Your paper is interestingly to read and produces great discussion.

As you and Katja already stated until a few years ago making a cruise in the Mediterranean Sea, in the Atlantic Ocean, in the Baltic Sea etc. was a really less talked about topic in society. Those able to go on a cruise have either been called "wealthy" or have been senior citizens with time and money. Cruises now aim to speak to a wide population with excluding "almost" no one. But social classes still constitute our society in the 21st century because we still distinguish between upper, middle and working class (A, B, C, D and E class) (Page and Connell, 2006). It comes into effect in tourism, too. Even though cruises are trying to cater all social classes as you mentioned Sara, in general many people worldwide still cannot afford a holiday even though when working hard and saving money or special low-price holiday offers are offered. Inequalities 'in tourism among occupational groups are more evident in the type of holiday taken than the participation rates' (Page and Connell, 2006, p. 79).

You wrote that 'those that seek cruise holidays now are looking for cultural enrichment' but is this cultural enrichment possible for everyone even though there are simpler cruise liners to choose from and promotional offers? Aren´t these promotional offers (free travel money, rock climbing, ice skating) not more likely offers to get more people from middle class rather than from "lower" class on board?
Although cruise tourism has developed a lot over the last decade (Papathanassis, 2009) one cannot generalize that therefore everyone is able to go on holiday or even do a cruise. It does not matter if cruise companies cater almost everyone´s needs and that there are numerous cruise ships worldwide to choose from. As Katja said, those in the upper/middle class with time and money are lucky. They have the big choice but in "lower" classes people still need to be able to pay for such a trip especially as a family. As Page and Connell also say 'a young professional worker with 4 children may have less disposal income than a working couple in the skilled manual class who has no dependants' (2006, p. 78). They are thinking about the following issue differently than the professional worker:

"Your package includes shipboard accommodations, ocean transportation, fabulous entertainment and daily activities, on-board meals and some beverages, port charges and more. It DOES NOT include shore excursions, personal expenses, gratuities, or alcoholic beverages. Government fees and taxes are not included […]" as well as airfare (Cruises, 2010).

Katjas question: "Would those living with low incomes not prefer to take a luxury holiday to the Bahamas instead of going to Blackpool if they could afford it?" is really great in this context. Because we all know that if we would have more money available we would spend a different holidays as we actually do!


Cruises (2010) Cruises. Home. [Online] Available from: http://www.cruises.com/sc.do?d=4/1/2010&d2=9/30/2011&i=865302&c=11&v=579&IncludeAlumniRates=&IncludeSeniorRates=false&state=&zipcode=&dsc=y (Accessed 02.05.2010).

Page, S. J. and Connell, J. (2006) Tourism a modern synthesis. 2nd edition. London:Thomson.

Papathanassis, A. (2009) Managing Emerging Markets Human Resources, Processes and Systems. Wiesbaden: Gabler Verlag.
Is luxury the same for all?
Author: Jenni Heiman
This paper focuses on a current topic as the gap between the extreme ends - the very rich and very poor - has been noted to grow constantly. I was drawn to this paper as it slightly touches my own paper about ethnicity, in that, ethnic minorities generally belong to lower social classes due to discrimination they encounter in their host countries when applying for work and ending up with low paid jobs.

Author of this paper has nicely included components of different social classes and a definition of social class categories. I found the following observation impressive: "What is not taken into consideration with the above scale stating classes is which stage in the life cycle a person is." It really matters whether you are 'a middle class young single' looking for new adventures or 'a middle class family man' who needs to consider the needs of other family members as well.

Members of the higher social class are more likely to think that 'travel at least twice a year' is one of their rights, after all they have worked for it, there is nothing wrong with that but those who struggle with the harshness of everyday life should also be entitled to the same right, it has been noted that holidays can improve the psychological and physical well-being of people which, in turn, can reduce society's burdens of social problems which arise when people are not able to escape their stresses in any other way than maybe by resorting to the closest - the bottle.

Cruise tourism reflects well this unequal access to tourism by different social classes, taking a Finnish perspective on the matter, there are relatively cheap cruise offers between Scandinavian and Baltian countries but when it comes to destinations such as the Caribbean the prices rise exponentially. This said I have to disagree with the last sentence as the choice range for lower social classes is not immense if accessible at all, because travelling usually requires some extra money besides the actual travel package bought. Varying holiday behaviour amongst higher and lower social classes may be the result of increased appreciation or taste for different kinds of travel options, if lower social classes would take on luxury holidays would they feel comfortable in these new circles or would they feel like outsiders when coming across elite tourists?

To conclude the paper shows that the author has researched the main impacts of social class on holiday behaviour in the context of cruise tourism, however, it would be interesting to read more about the affordability of holidays. Many tourism and travel activities are still out of reach for lower social classes, especially luxurious cruises, but is luxury the same for all? Or do the definitions vary amongst social classes? And is luxury always worth it, if you can get memorable travel experiences closer to home with a lower budget?
cruises for all
Author: Susan Jesse
This paper is very well linked to my own with the link to social classes and transportation. There is a well written discussion and referenced throughout the paper making it an interesting read.
Cruises originally started as a form of transport not as a form of holiday making it only available to the higher social classes and made it too expensive for the lower classes. However this can be said for transportation as from my own research the majority of travel was marketed to the elite then due to development and over the years became afford and available to lower classes (Page and Connell 2006).
Although you mention that lower classes can holiday on a cruise they still do not gain the same experience as the service and quality they gain are of a lower class meaning that the lower classes are still limited on experiences whereas the higher classes will travel for longer and to more exotic destinations however from my own research I found that the destinations the lower class cruises ships travel to are mainly the Mediterranean (EasyCruise 2010) with the further away destinations for example the Caribbean being made more available for middle classes. However cruises have still been made more available to other classes not just the high class.
From my own research on cruises and other transport it would be fair to say that companies have noticed a market in the lower classes and have used this in a promotion method to make a profit this could explain why the destinations the travel are only European. Another example of this would be low cost airlines as they only fly to European destinations and make travelling to the destinations more afford for lower classes (Faulkner et al 2001). .
It could be said with all travel in time tourism will become more widely accessible for lower classes with the development in technology and transportation meaning that lower social classes are only limited for a period of time for example lower classes travelling to America on a low budget. Ryan Air announced that they will soon be travelling to America for as little as £10 (Telegraph 2010) this could incorporated with cruises as has I have mentioned many of the cruises are European with the development of EasyCruise they also in time could travel to more exotic destination making exotic destinations more assessable to the lower classes and not just middle or high classes.
In conclusion it could be said that tourism in general is only limited for a limited amount of time as due to factors such as transportation reducing in cost and new companies making it afford to the lower classes.
Anon) (No date) EasyCruise [Online] [cited 20th April 2010] assessed on < www.easycruise.com/pAbouteCL.aspx>
(Anon) (No date) Telegraph [Online] [Cited 21st April 2010] assessed on < http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/3373190/Ryanair-reveals-cut-price-transatlantic-plans.html>
Faulkner, B. Moscardo, G. And Laws, E. (2001) Tourism in the 21st century: lessons from experience: London, Continuum.
Page, S. And Connell, J. (2006) Tourism; a modern synthesis 2nd ed: London, Thomson