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UEL 'social tourism' expert gets boost from Leverhulme Small Research Grant

La Paz cable car

UEL's Dr Raoul Bianchi has spent 25 years focused on issues of power and inequality in relation to tourism

The ways which government and the tourism industry can champion ‘social tourism’ is explored in a project recently awarded a £10,000 British Academy / Leverhulme Small Research Grant. Dr Raoul Bianchi, reader in international tourism and development at the University of East London (UEL), is co-investigator on the project, which is led by the University of Nottingham and in collaboration with the Universities of Malaga and Huelva in Spain.

Dr Bianchi explained, “Social tourism is a form of welfare, delivered through financial subsidies, which yields social, economic and personal benefits. Despite these positive impacts, funding has decreased in recent years and we have little knowledge of how such changes have impacted on businesses and destination economies.”

Social tourism is "the connections and phenomena related to the participation of people in the countries of destinations as well as of holidaymakers, of disadvantaged layers of society or those unable to participate in tourism, holidays,” according to the International Social Tourism Organisation.

Dr Bianchi's project will employ multiple methods to assess public funding policies and economic impacts of ‘social tourism’ in Spain.

Dr Bianchi said, “In addition to the academic outcomes, the objective of this project is to inform Spanish government policy on the impact of funding cuts as a result of the Eurozone crisis between 2007 and 2017.

“It also aims to provide input into evolving UK policy on the potential of social tourism funding and strategies, to not only enhance the social well-being of underprivileged citizens, but also, to help revitalize depressed regional economies with high dependence on tourism, such as seaside towns.”

The project is led by Dr Bianchi’s colleague, Professor Scott McCabe of Nottingham University Business School.

Dr Bianchi, who is part of UEL’s Institute for Hospitality and Tourism, has spent the past 25 years focused on issues of power and inequality in relation to tourism.

He said, “Increasingly, access to leisure and holiday-making has come to be seen as an indicator of deprivation and as a pillar of social citizenship.  For example, since 2009 the EU has been developing a transnational social tourism programme called Calypso, to help underprivileged citizens across Europe enjoy the social benefits of holiday-making.”