On 22 September 2017 we held the wrap-up event of the project IDENTIFICATION, CLASSIFICATION AND POTENTIAL DEVELOPMENT OF SOCIAL TOURISM PRODUCTS IN SLOVENIA, ORIENTED TOWARDS SENIOR PROGRAMMES (Project V5-1512). The latter falls within the Targeted Research Projects, financed by the ARRS Slovenian Research Agency and by the Slovenian Ministry of Economic Development and Technology.
Tourism represents the field of assuring fundamental human rights to leisure, arising from the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, bringing a variety of positive effects for individuals as well as for society as such. Sadly, this right is not accessible to everyone in modern society due to social disadvantages, a tight financial situation or other circumstances like poor health, mobility problems and various disabilities. Social tourism has evolved as an alternative to common/commercial forms of tourism, thus adjusting travel and holiday offers for disadvantaged social groups by paying special attention to their capabilities and limitations.
Care for different vulnerable groups, including seniors, mirrors the development level of modern society. The quality of life is reflected by happiness, security and fulfilment in different life aspects. A fifth of elderly Europeans expresses a lower level of satisfaction in life, two thirds only a medium-level (EUSTAT, 2015), and this is a concern. In Slovenia, the level of satisfaction is below the European average.
Only 49 % of Europeans, who are older than 65, are actively involved in travelling, which is substantially less than the other age groups (between 61 % and 71 %). 22 % of EU residents is older than 65, but they only represent the 18 % of all EU tourists. More than one third of Europeans who are 55 or more are not travelling, a weak fifth travels once a year. The main reasons are a tight financial situation (44 %) and health reasons (37 %). Thus, seniors are one among the four groups benefiting in social tourism (according to the CALYPSO definition the other three are the youth, families and the disabled).
Seniors (55 – 80 years old) make up a quarter of EU population and thus represent an important market potential for tourism. It is therefore an important part of the European society, that is apparently facing the problem of ensuring a quality life and the right to leisure, among which there are tourist activities. Slovenia is aware of this problematic and the opportunities arising in social tourism and is therefore on its path towards systematically providing travelling and holidays to disadvantaged groups. We are presenting the results of the project, which identified the possibilities and opportunities to develop effective forms of holidays and travelling, which can substantially improve the possibilities of seniors to engage in tourism and thus improve the quality of their lives (e.g. health, fulfilment, recreation, knowledge, socialisation, etc.).
On the other hand, social tourism brings numerous positive effects for society of social and economic nature (see below).
Table 1: Identified benefits of social tourism among senior population
|Benefits for individuals
||Benefits for society
|· Higher level of satisfaction
· Increase of independence
· Better mental and physical health
· Interruption of routine and changing of environment
· Opportunity for socialising and meeting new people
· Opportunity to learn through new experience and new environments
· Relaxation and improvement of relations
· Improvement of self-image and confidence
|· Reduction of social inequalities
· Promotion of social inclusion
· Improvement of quality of life in society
· Improvement of social wellbeing
· Increase in social cohesion
|· Fostering of economic growth
· Reduction of seasonality impacts to business operations
· Maintenance of the existing and creation of new employments
· Facilitation of development of regions or tourist destinations
The project revealed that in Slovenia the older population is engaged in tourism in a much lower degree than other age groups. Based on the available data of the Statistical Office of the Republic of Slovenia, persons older than 65 represent only a good tenth of all travelling among Slovenians. They also spend much less than an average Slovenian traveller. The comparison between senior tourists (65 +) and young tourists (15 – 24 years old) reveals that seniors travel less and spend 30 % less than the youth. Many obstacles contribute to such a “travelling” image of the older population. By such a low level of capabilities and engagement in tourism the quality of life of seniors is deteriorating as well and at the same time other social fields are having its toll (e. g. medical system), as travelling has a direct positive effect on regeneration (mental and physical) of the organism and thus leads to less medical complications.
In Slovenia we know all four globally established models of social tourism:
- Participatory model,
- Inclusive model,
- Adaptation model,
- Stimulation model.
Nonetheless, another, probably unique, model of Social tourism, that emphasises seniors, is resulting in Slovenia:
- Hybrid model, e. g. programmes of Pensioners’ associations, where associations in cooperation with travel agencies prepare adapted tourism arrangements for their members; i. e. arrangements with a special discount, a tailored content, adapted transportation, possibilities of payment by instalments, accompanying persons, and similar. Such arrangements are usually organised in low season. These are mainly domestic trips around Slovenia and the surrounding areas lasting 1 or more days and longer trips to health resorts and summer vacations. These programmes are intended (mainly) for members and arise from a cooperation with commercial operators, in the frame of long-term public-private partnerships.
Furthermore, social tourism programmes are tailored to the market and thus to the needs of the target consumers of social tourism. In spite of this there is still considerable room for manoeuvre to introduce to Slovenia the established models of social tourism.
The key outcomes of the project are:
- Analysis of the situation and development potentials of social tourism in Slovenia;
- Identification and classification of different Slovenian senior programmes of social tourism;
- Study of existing national and foreign models of support mechanisms of social tourism;
- Feasibility study of a web portal, which would connect supply with demand in the field of social tourism for seniors;
- Formulate policies and measures in relation to the research of social tourism in Slovenia.
The key project proposals are:
- Slovenia requires more developmental tourism initiatives for target consumers of social tourism;
- More integration between the state, economy, non-profit sector/organisations and civil society, that connects target consumers of social tourism, will be necessary;
- The initiative for registration and an easier access to information on tourism supply and demand for target consumers of social tourism is obvious;
- Key information for all social tourism stakeholders must be included in the existing tourism commercial information and distribution channels;
- It is essential to adopt consistent strategic guidelines of the state in the area of social tourism and thus to adapt legislative acts;
- It is necessary to establish financial mechanisms for consumers and providers (e.g. voucher system or discounting system) and make sure that the latter is used solely for the purpose of travelling;
- Other support systems for supply-demand in social tourism should be established;
- A programme of integrated promotion and information to the public (economic sector, non-profit sector, state, civil society) regarding the problems, benefits and effects of social tourism in Slovenia, should be established.
The project has shown numerous benefits of promoting social forms of tourism, with emphasis on programmes for the older population and has linked key players in the field. It has proposed specific measures to promote the possibilities of seniors to engage in travelling more actively and thus genuinely enjoy their fundamental right. And the proposed measures also lead towards the establishment of a tourist offer that enables seniors to actively contribute to tourism, since it is one of the most important economic industries, and to solve the problem of seasonality and the related business challenges in the tourism sector.