Social tourism, is a development from traditional passive forms of cultural tourism towards more active involvement of the tourist in the cultural life of the places they are visiting. Social tourism is the experience of learning from and interacting with local customs and people that tourists can take home with them. This high involvement form of tourism is the result of a value shift towards self-development rather than just the material aspects of consumption.

Research has underlined the importance of the cultural tourism market for a wide range of destinations. But there are indications that the traditional picture of ‘the cultural tourist’ as an elderly, well-off consumer of heritage sites needs to be revised. It no longer makes sense to talk about one single type of cultural tourist, or one single type of cultural tourism. As the market matures it is also becoming increasingly diverse, producing opportunities and challenges for the swelling ranks of social tourism professionals.

Keeping track of these developments will be one of the major priorities for policy-makers, marketeers and tourism academics in the future.

IGCAT is currently compiling examples of good practice and intends to publish findings in a regular Social Tourism Trends Report. The Social Tourism Trends Reports will be annual briefings written for policy-makers, cultural operators, academics and researchers interested in identifying current creative tourism trends and issues. The series will highlight current challenges in the cultural and tourism policy field and delve into their importance (impact) for tourism policy. The publication will also offer valuable quick facts and statistics from reliable sources, gather news evidence and highlight further reading. The series will be issued/published in the form of a short digest focusing on specific areas to enable readers to respond quickly to new challenges.

Report 1, authored by Dr. Diane Dodd, IGCAT’s Director, is due to be published in Spring 2016.

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