Social tourism

Social tourism the beginning

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From social tourism to “Tourism for All”
The introduction of the annual holiday and holiday pay are at the basis of social tourism. This goes back to 1936 when trade unions linked the right to paid holidays with the possibility for labourers to escape their hard daily life. The establishment of vacation centres thus allowed labourers to go on holiday outside the commercial circuit at an acceptable price. The first holiday experience was then usually a group holiday.

The centres for social tourism enjoyed their glory days in the post-war years. The period of economic growth was one of hard work, and the average Belgian had little time and limited means for holidays. Social holidays were subsidised by the government, and more holiday homes saw the light of day in Belgium and abroad.

Society was subject to constant change and progress. A large group became wealthier and wished to leave behind the socially tinted vacation centres. They explored the commercial circuit and found their way from social tourism to tourism. This is referred to as a democratisation of the sector. The trend shifted from group holidays to more individual holidays. Not everyone, however, benefited from financial advancement, and a substantial group remained behind, also in the area of tourism.

In the 1990s, a number of sources of subsidies dried up and vacation centres found it difficult to survive. They sought alternative sources of financing and continued to exist, but the social objectives became blurred. The centres were accessible to all and the target group became more diverse. In the same period, the commercial sector launched low-budget offerings that met with an eager audience.

On 1 October 1999, the World Tourism Organisation underscored the right of everyone to travel and in this way to get to know other regions and countries. The desire to see tourism as a universal right and to make it accessible to all is a basis for social tourism. “The right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay” is included in article 24 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (10 December 1948).

We note that today 26.5% of our compatriots are unable to afford a holiday. One out of seven Belgians is poor. People living in poverty must make choices, and often not much is left over for leisure. They spend on average 75% less on tourist travel than the average Belgian. Those with a limited income must make choices. Often little or nothing is left for leisure and recreation.

Since holidays are a basic right and bring people back into contact with others, the Holiday Participation Centre is working on affordable holiday offerings. For all.

A decree “ Tourism for All” in 2003
In 2003, the decree “Tourism for All” replaced the Royal Decree of 1980. It was a response to the changing societal context and gives new interpretation to social tourism. “Tourism for All” refers to a non-commercial form of tourism and recreation, with the focus on objectives that differ from merely economic activities. On the one hand, a choice was made for a target group –focused approach to support the manner in which specific target groups experience holidays.

On the other hand, “Tourism for All” implies a new structure for supporting the organisations that focus on these target groups.

Often, persons living in poverty do not have access to the commercial holiday circuit. Work done by the Holiday Participation Centre is fully focused on this target group.

Making holidays possible for the disabled also implies providing the requisite supporting initiatives. The initiatives for this target group principally concern the quality of the accommodation infrastructure. To advertise their services to the target group, a accessibility label is awarded.

Children and young people constitute a fully – fledged target group within “Tourism for All”. The goal of the decree is to provide sufficient capacity, diversity and basis quality within the youth tourism sector.

In addition, many families and senior citizens still fall by the wayside when it comes to experiencing holidays away from home. The existing social vacation centres continue to play a very important role in support of this target group.