Holidays, happiness and social tourism as policy
A new study into the links between holidays and happiness has shed fresh light on the potential value of “social tourism” to policies designed to improve well-being.
The research examined how families experiencing problems such as low income, unemployment, debt and mental health issues benefit from the chance to enjoy a break.
It found the experience is likely to improve various aspects of their well-being, including family relations, social and leisure time, optimism and general outlook on life.
More than three quarters of those who took part in the study, conducted for the Family Holiday Association, said they felt happier, while 84% reported a better quality of life.
The findings come at a time when the concept of well-being is earning growing recognition in policy considerations in Britain and across Europe.
Sarah Johnson, a Knowledge Transfer Partnership Research Associate with the Family Holiday Association and Nottingham University Business School, carried out the study.
She said: “Our findings add strength to the case for social tourism as a policy intervention that could improve the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in society.
“Governments across Europe are increasingly acknowledging that a sense of happiness isn’t simply a matter of what we do for a living and how much we earn.
“The UK government, for instance, has pledged to devise policies that are ‘more focused not just on the bottom line but on all the things that make life worthwhile’.
“The strong link our research has shown between holiday participation and changes in well-being among low-income groups clearly has implications in that regard.”
The case for social tourism
Social tourism has been roughly defined as the provision of holidays and other leisure activities for the benefit of individuals and families on low incomes.
There is a growing body of research into the concept, but few studies have investigated the link with subjective well-being – how people gauge their own happiness.
The Family Holiday Association, which is the only charity of its kind in the UK, surveyed a number of families it assisted between July and December 2011.
A total of 127 respondents who were helped to take breaks within the UK completed pre-holiday and post-holiday surveys to assess their subjective well-being (SWB).
The findings revealed statistically significant increases in several key dimensions used to measure SWB, as well as other improvements in general outlook.
Almost a quarter of those surveyed had a “very positive” outlook on life in the weeks after going on holiday, while eight out of 10 reported better family relations.
Research co-author Dr Scott McCabe, of Nottingham University Business School, said the findings strengthened the case for social tourism as a policy intervention.
He said: “This research demonstrates that tourism participation deserves to be included in any debate about devising new measures for gauging national well-being.
“It also underlines that holidays aren’t just about fun and relaxation – they’re about personal growth and important opportunities to achieve life/work balance.
“Policymakers should bear in mind the potential implications for a range of social policy contexts – for instance, health, education, employment and welfare.”
New markets for the tourism industry
Dr McCabe, an Associate Professor of Tourism Management/Marketing, also urged the tourism industry to take note of the research’s findings.
He said: “The industry could tap into a new market if it develops products that encourage take-up among low-income and other vulnerable consumer segments.”
The research was recently presented to representatives from across the tourism sector at Holidays Matter, a conference held at the Royal Society in London.
Paul Maynard MP, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on social tourism, was among those to address the event, organised by the Family Holiday Association.
Calling for more research into social tourism’s benefits, he said: “The public debate is beginning to thrive. The challenge that remains is to drive the agenda forward.”
The Family Holiday Association
The Family Holiday Association is a charity dedicated to promoting the benefits of social tourism.
It works in partnership with other like-minded organisations to provide breaks away from home for children and their families and, since its establishment in 1975, has assisted more than 150,000 people with a holiday they could not otherwise afford. It uses the evidence it gathers from the families it helps directly to influence policy and practice.
Knowledge Transfer Partnership
This research was part of a two-year Knowledge Transfer Partnership project between the Family Holiday Association and Nottingham University Business School.
The project included:
• Developing a systematic evidence base and online knowledge bank for social tourism
• Conducting a large study on the well-being benefits of social tourism
• Supporting a range of small projects, such as Family Learning Adventures and Experiential Learning, which will inform new programmes.
For more information about this research contact
Dr Scott McCabe
Posted on Monday 5th November 2012