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An investigation into how low income groups in Europe are granted access to tourism primarily focusing on the United Kingdom and Belgium

An investigation into how low income groups in Europe are granted access to tourism primarily focusing on the United Kingdom and Belgium
Author: Bradley Joshua Sell
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Abstract: This paper focuses on how low income groups are granted access to tourism primarily focusing on the United Kingdom and Belgium.

Key words: Social tourism, poverty, low income

Many people aren't aware of social tourism, and many others have just a foggy idea of what it implies. It is not something that is frequently brought up in casual conversation, nor has it received much attention. Although some people do not travel because they do not want to, or because their health or lack of mobility prevents them from participating in tourism, the most prevalent reason for non-participation is an inability to finance a break. Social tourism may be described as the interactions and phenomena in the tourist industry that come from involvement in travel by economically disadvantaged or otherwise disadvantaged members of society (Hall, 2000: 141), Hunzicker (1957) concurs with Hall but adds a statement on the nature of social tourism provision, describing it as a specific sort of tourism distinguished by the involvement of individuals with low income, providing them with unique services, recognized as such, to address the many varieties of social tourism each with its own target audience, product type, intended consequences and motives. Minnaert et al. (2009), Minnaert (2008), and McCabe (2009) conducted research on the social impacts of low-income beneficiaries participating in social tourism and discovered proof of benefits ranging from increased self-esteem, improved family relations, and broadening of travel horizons to much more pro-active perceptions toward life and involvement in education and employment.

Townsend (1979) states that individuals, families, and groups in the population are deemed poor, because they lack the resources to purchase the day-to-day comforts that are considered common practice. Poverty, according to Oppenheim (1990: 3), implies falling short materially, socially, and emotionally; it means staying at home, frequently becoming bored; Lister (2004: 3) goes on to say in agreement with Oppenheim stating that poverty may mean a variety of things, ranging from material and social deprivation to economic deprivation and varies greatly among countries due to each socioeconomic status being different. It is clear from this definition that poverty is established by social norms, and hence the meaning of poverty varies depending on the social environment.

Tourism engagement in the United Kingdom has been steadily increasing over the last 40 years. The industry's increased competition has put pressure on social tourism, with a decline in public sector funding resulting in an increase in poverty in various countries, notably the United Kingdom. On the other hand, Europe has significant challenges due to the economy's flaws, yet social tourism is an important component of the European tourist system. However, acquiring evidence of the number and scope of social tourism remains difficult. Having said that, there is a high level of engagement in social tourism across Europe, with a range of initiatives being formed to assist disadvantaged segments of society, such as low-income individuals.

For nearly 40 years, the Family Holiday Association in the United Kingdom has provided grants to low-income recipients who experience various sorts of disadvantage. The organization seems to be the sole national social tourism charity in the United Kingdom, and it plays an important role in policy formation, connecting the tourist sector to a growing governmental social tourism agenda (Minnaert et al., 2010). The organization also contributes to research and develops its own program of activities to address a number of issues affecting low-income families. The organization's major aims are to expand the number of families that have access to a break from everyday life; it can operate as an escape mechanism for the person (Family Holiday Association, n.d). Following on from the case study of the United Kingdom, Tourism Flanders, a department of the Flemish government, and the Brussels municipal authorities developed The Holiday Participation Centre in 2011 (Diekmann et al., 2011). Everyone, especially low-income families, can afford to visit the centre. The core idea of this organization is the concept that everyone is entitled to a break from daily life; many organisations have associated with the centre in recent years owing to its high levels of success (Diekmann et al., 2011).

It is clear that social tourism is becoming more of a part of everyday life, with more and more organisations springing up throughout the world to tackle the problems of social tourism and poverty. It has been demonstrated that social tourism benefits the economy of the nations that have reviewed their financing schemes. There is also potential for the United Kingdom to become a progressive innovator in the field of social tourism, as they have one of the most developed and competitive travel and tourism industries in the world, which adds to the importance of social tourism in times of uncertainty, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Diekmann, A., Minnaert, L. and McCabe, S., 2011. Social Tourism in Europe Theory and Practice. Channel View Publications.

Minnaert, Lynn & Stacey, J. & Quinn, Bernadette & Griffin, Kevin. (2010). Social tourism for low-income groups: Benefits in a UK and Irish context. Tourism and Inequality: Problems and Prospects. 126-142. 10.1079/9781845936624.0126.

Townsend, P. (1979). Poverty in the United Kingdom: A survey of household resources and standards of living. Middlesex: Penguin.