Toney K. Thomas
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.
Keywords: Social tourism, inclusive tourism, ageing population, senior tourism, disability, demography