As restrictions begin to ease in some parts of the world, many destinations will experience a domestic tourism boom due to international travel restrictions, health fears and financial hardship. Despite the short-term increase, challenges lie ahead for domestic tourism once the after-effects of the pandemic begin to subside, as many tourists will look to travel abroad once again. Social tourism offers a sustainable long-term solution by providing people from vulnerable or disadvantaged groups an opportunity to enjoy tourism they otherwise would have not been able to. Thus, providing sustained revenue streams for domestic providers and long-term social benefits for the wider society.

Social tourism enhances domestic travel and benefits society

In recent times, national governments have created social tourism initiatives that have increased domestic visitation and expenditure. In Spain, for example, IMERSO (Insititute for Elderly and Social Services) offers subsidised holidays for the elderly to a range of destinations during off-peak seasons, this helps out coastal towns that are often impacted by seasonality. Although this is just one example, subsidised holidays are becoming more common in Europe. In Belgium, the tourist board VisitBelgium operates a scheme called ‘Everyone deserves a vacation’, the scheme enables people from disadvantaged backgrounds to enjoy subsidised domestic holidays and day trips. Day trips may include zoos, museums and adventure activities, enhancing educational opportunities and personal enrichment. The tourist board – in partnership with thousands of accommodation and attraction operators – helps to boost domestic tourism throughout the country. Families can apply for large discounts based on several criteria, such as income, employment and housing.

A worthy strategy to embark upon

As many countries are looking to find new and innovative ways to boost their respective economies, subsidised tourism could be an option for many. The demand for tourism is extremely high, however financial concerns are problematic. According to a GlobalData Q1 2021 Global Consumer Survey, 32% of respondents said they were ‘extremely concerned’ with their financial situation. In the same survey, 22% said they were ‘anxious’ and 20% said they were ‘stressed’, highlighting the economic and mental strain that the pandemic has placed on many consumers.

Therefore, a project which helps support people from lower socio-economic backgrounds could not only increase domestic tourism but improve mental wellbeing, personal enrichment and family stability. The impact of the pandemic has added strain on to many families. With more than a year of restrictions and financial hardship, social tourism is a way to give disadvantaged families or individuals a break, as well as improving national economic recovery.