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Social Tourism and its Ethical Foundations

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Although social tourism has been seen in a number of countries as having potential to counter social exclusion, formulating a definition for the term is difficult. "Social tourism" is used to describe a variety of initiatives for a variety of different social groups. These range from holidays for children from low-income backgrounds, through improving accessibility in hotels, to offering ecological holidays. This article discusses the definitions of "social tourism," distinguishing host-related and visitor-related forms, and aims to clarify its potential value in combating social exclusion. It does so by examining the ethical values underlying the way social tourism is defined and suggesting a theoretical framework for the effects of social tourism. Some ethical views of society place an a priori moral duty on the stronger strata to support the weaker. Others do not judge the support of the weaker strata as an a priori dominant ethical principle, and judge the welfare of the state by the opportunity of all its strata. Ethical positions that see stronger strata as having a moral duty to support the weaker are more likely to be supportive toward both host-related and visitor-related social tourism. Those that do not will probably support host-related social tourism, but will support visitor-related social tourism, if publicly funded, only if it can demonstrate benefits for the whole of society. In Western liberal democracies where this is a prevailing view, visitor-related social tourism might justify public expenditure as a potential tool to combat social exclusion. It can be seen as a merit good if it improves excluded peoples' handicapping characteristics, through, for example, beneficial effects in health, self-esteem, and improvement of family relationships. However, there is little research to test its effectiveness in achieving these outcomes. Further research is required to evaluate whether social tourism can have a significant role in combating social exclusion, and thus justify support from public expenditure.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: March 1, 2006

More about this publication?
  • Tourism, Culture & Communication is international in its scope and will place no restrictions upon the range of cultural identities covered, other than the need to relate to tourism and hospitality. The Journal seeks to provide interdisciplinary perspectives in areas of interest that may branch away from traditionally recognized national and indigenous cultures, for example, cultural attitudes toward the management of tourists with disabilities, gender aspects of tourism, sport tourism, or age-specific tourism.

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