Social tourism is about helping people travel who would not otherwise be able to do so and it has something to offer both to the tourist trade and to society.
Around Europe more and more regions rely on tourism for all or part of their livelihood, but many rooms lie empty for several months every year. By opening up tourism to people who would normally find it difficult to finance a proper holiday, it is possible to fill the out-of-season void, boost business and employment opportunities for the tourism industry, and at the same time improve the quality of life for citizens.
For a family this can have a lasting impact through spending time together, improving relationships and building happy memories. A holiday allows time to relax, unwind and offers a chance to resolve issues and encourages people to face their future more positively. For a person that is sick a holiday has proven to strengthen the immune system, allowing the body a better chance to heal.
New UK Social Tourism Venture
Holidays For Your Soul have set up a for-profit social tourism organisation that specifically provides holidays for families effected by cancer. Started in Italy in 2006 by UK expat Ruth Moss, the company is now expanding to include destinations in the UK, France, Spain, Greece and Israel.
The need for this type of tourism service was recognised by Ms Moss when she house sat a boutique hotel in Tuscany during the winter months of 2005. With many rooms sitting empty during low/mid season periods it became apparent that they could be put to better use, so some initial enquiries were made with owners of other hotels, B&B’s and agriturismi (farmhouse holidays) to find out if they would be interested in collaborating in a social tourism initiative. The response was very encouraging and although participants gained from the positive publicity and marketing campaigns that the company ran, many initially joined the programme because they saw an opportunity to make a difference.
“The response from the Italians was true to their nature, warm and open- hearted. I am hoping that we get the same from the new destinations that we want to reach this year,” explained Moss. “We only take a handful of hotels from each region, so it gives great opportunity for visibility and to differentiate yourself in the market. Our aim for the next 12 month period is to provide 1000 holidays to families affected by cancer at 500 partner destinations across the six countries.”
Why a For-Profit Organisation?
“I decided to take the route of a for-profit company rather than charity status because our basic philosophy as a company is that business has real power to effect change, and I would like Holidays for your soul to be an example for this,” continued Moss. “If we can ignite ideas for other business owners to create initiatives that make a difference then what we achieve at Holidays for your soul can become even greater. I also wanted to establish a sustainable business model and something that was in line with current thinking and trends. Charities the world over do some wonderful work but the traditional charity model is very outdated, and having worked for many years as a consultant in the sector I think it’s time to look at fresh ideas and ways to tackle the various social and environmental issues that we face today.”
Hoteliers looking to embrace the social tourism trend can visit www.holidaysforyoursoul.com and submit your hotel for inclusion as a partner destination in the new UK scheme.