Academic journal article European Journal of Tourism Research

The Impact of Social Tourism for Seniors on the Economic Development of Tourism Destinations

Academic journal article European Journal of Tourism Research

The Impact of Social Tourism for Seniors on the Economic Development of Tourism Destinations

Article excerpt

Introduction

Tourism is a major industry worldwide, but there are still many persons with no access to this activity. The senior population in many countries is still relatively underrepresented in the overall tourism market, as a result of lacking prior travel experience, low incomes, relative social isolation and/ or poor health conditions. However, particularly this actually growing demographic group could benefit largely from tourism given its social, cultural and health related benefits reported in several studies (Dann, 2002; McCabe & Johnson, 2013). Social tourism programmes directed to the senior population may help overcome some barriers and stimulate this group's participation in tourism activities.

Several international organizations (e.g. International Bureau of Social Tourism - BITS, European Commission) and researchers (e.g. Bélanger & Jolin, 2011; Minnaert, Maitland & Miller, 2011), recognize social tourism as an important activity worldwide (Eusébio, Carneiro, Kastenholz & Alvelos, 2013a), for both participants and society. This kind of initiatives may also have an important role in the economic development of tourism destinations, creating jobs, generating income, diversifying local economic structure and decreasing seasonality. However, doubts persist about the real impact of these initiatives on tourism destinations, since studies in this area are scarce, with almost an absence of strong empirical evidence revealing the scope of these impacts. Moreover, studies on the economic impacts of tourism have adopted only one approach for assessing these: mathematical models to quantify the total economic impacts or analysis of stakeholders' perceptions of impacts.

In order to fill the above mentioned gaps, this paper presents some empirical evidences that highlight the importance of developing social tourism initiatives financed by governments, mainly in periods of economic crises, where usually these initiatives suffer a considerable decrease of public funds. Moreover, the paper intends to develop and test a framework to analyse the role of social tourism for seniors in the economic development of tourism destinations. For this purpose, two complementary approaches to assess the economic impacts of a Portuguese social tourism programme for the senior market - Programa Turismo Sénior -, promoted by the INATEL Foundation are adopted. First, an analysis of impact perceptions from the tourism supply agents' perspective is presented. Second, a calculation of the program's total economic impacts, based on information on programme costs, participants' expenditures and an input-output model for the Portuguese economy is developed. For assessing the perceptions of tourism suppliers concerning the sectorial and territorial economic impacts of this programme, a survey of organizations affected by it was carried out. In order to quantify the total (direct, indirect and induced) economic benefits of the programme concerning output, employment, household income and valueadded, total expenditures carried out in the programme and respective multiplier effects were calculated. This study differs from conventional tourism research on economic impacts by analysing the economic relevance of a social tourism programme for the senior market through the two aforementioned approaches.

In this paper we start with a conceptual introduction into the topics of social and senior tourism and discuss results from existing studies on the impact of social tourism programs. Then, the methodology of data collection and techniques used to assess the economic relevance of a Portuguese social tourism programme for the senior market are presented. Results, both regarding supply agents' perceptions of the programme's economic impacts and in terms of the total economic impact of the Programme (output, household income, value-added and employment) to the Portuguese economy are presented in the third section. The paper ends with some guidelines for strategies designed to maximize the economic benefits of social tourism for tourism destinations, limitations of the study and suggestions for further researches in this domain. …

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