Reducing social exclusion through participation in tourism

Submitting Institution

University of Surrey

Unit of Assessment

Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Human Society: Policy and Administration, Sociology

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Summary of the impact

Research at the University of Surrey, has assisted disabled people and low-income groups to access tourism, a significant non-material aspect of well-being. This was achieved by influencing policy and policy recommendations in the UK, Belgium and the EU and by influencing behaviour, action and policy of either demand or supply:

  • Demand: Increasing information and support options by establishing `Travel Support Points', exchange schemes and travel facilitating websites
  • Supply: Supporting tourism businesses by establishing accessibility tourism networks and influencing the biggest social tourism provider in Wallonia (Belgium) to extend existing inclusion measures, and introduce new initiatives

Underpinning research

Our contribution originates from three streams of research on social and accessible tourism:

2.1 Between 2004 and 2007 Surrey researcher Graham Miller, and Robert Maitland and Lynn Minnaert (University of Westminster) researched the impacts of social tourism on low-income groups and the role of social tourism in policy. This research, based on semi-longitudinal interviews and focus groups with social tourism users and support workers, demonstrated the benefits of social tourism in terms of confidence, social networks, family relations, mental health and positive behaviour changes. It showed that social tourism can reduce direct, indirect and opportunity social welfare costs, and highlighted the need for appropriate support before, during and after the holiday as keys to realising social benefits (Minnaert, Maitland and Miller, 2009).

From 2010, Miller and Minnaert (both Surrey) brought together academics, policy makers and the commercial tourism sector to analyse the potential of social tourism for the UK. NET-STaR (Network for Social Tourism and Regeneration) used the theoretical work of academics, including Miller and Minnaert, to identify and evaluate transferable, good practice examples from across Europe, including innovations in social enterprise, public-private partnerships and voluntary sector provision in the social economy. Building on this research, Surrey became the leading research partner in FETE (First European Travel Experience), funded under the EU's Calypso programme. FETE implements a substantial pilot exchange of disadvantaged young people without international travel experience, between Belgium, Germany, Finland and Sweden. Surrey's research was instrumental in shaping this international co-operation.

2.2 In 2005-2007, Surrey's research focused on how to widen tourism participation. Previously, little was known about the travel behaviour of individuals with access needs and the market size for accessible tourism in Europe, with estimates varying considerably. Yet, our study provided the first conclusive evidence). The significance of this work is emphasised by their finding that the demand for accessible tourism in Europe exceeds 127 million (27% of the European population) (Eichhorn, Miller, Michopoulou, Buhalis (2008).

Researchers at Surrey also analysed information access schemes across 19 countries. With results showing that existing schemes only partly comply with informational requirements due to high fragmentation and limited geographical reach. These findings led to the development of the first European-wide accessibility scheme ( Surrey's research informed the scheme, and underpinned the business plan.

2.3 From 2009 to 2011, we investigated the supply-side barriers to accessibility, significantly under-researched compared to demand. Surrey analysed how tourism SMEs could be more sustainable and competitive. The findings, derived from focus groups with SMEs and expert interviews, demonstrated that the principal barriers to accessible tourism were structural, informational and attitudinal. It was demonstrated that the most effective knowledge-based networks to overcome these barriers should enable informal interactions within formal structures, where close physical proximity facilitate trust-based relationships — (online:

References to the research

1) Eichhorn, V., Miller, G., Michopoulou, E. and Buhalis, D. (2008) Enabling Access to Tourism Through Information Schemes? Annals of Tourism Research, 35 (1): 189-210, doi: 10.1016/j.annals.2007.07.005.


2) Minnaert L. (2012), `Social Tourism as Opportunity for Unplanned Learning and Behavior Change', Journal of Travel Research, 51 (5): 607-616, doi: 10.1177/0047287511431324.


3) McCabe S., Minnaert L. & Diekmann A. (2011), Social Tourism in Europe: Theory and Practice, Channel View Publications: Bristol.


4) Minnaert, L., Maitland, R. & Miller, G. (2011). What is social tourism? Special Issue on Social Tourism, Current Issues in Tourism, 14 (5): 403-415, doi: 10.1080/13683500.2011.568051.


5) Minnaert, L., Maitland, R. & Miller, G. (2009), `Tourism and social policy — The value of social tourism', Annals of Tourism Research, 36 (2): 316-334, doi:10.1016/j.annals.2009.01.002.




• Grant title: EDC-11278 OSSATE — One-Stop-Shop for Accessible Tourism in Europe

• Sponsor: Co-funded by the European Commission "eContent" programme

• Period of grant: January 2005 - June 2007

• Value of grant: €3.6m


• Grant title. ENT/CIP/08/N05S00 - CETA — Competitiveness for a European Tourism for All

• Sponsor: EU DG Enterprise, Period of grant: January 2009 - June 2011

• Value of grant: €100k


• Grant title: NET-STaR: Network for Social Tourism and Regeneration

• Sponsor: ESRC, Period of grant: January 2011 - January 2013

• Value of grant: £15K


• Grant title: FETE: First European Travel Experience

• Sponsor: EU DG Enterprise, Period of grant: February 2012 - January 2013

• Value of grant: €130K

Economic impact and travel patterns of accessible tourism in Europe

• Grant title: Economic impact and travel patterns of accessible tourism in Europe

• Sponsor: EU DG Enterprise, Period of grant: January 2013 - January 2014

• Value of grant: €250K

TOTAL value of all grants: £ 3,558,618

Details of the impact

Our research has led to changes in behaviour and action of either demand or supply with the main beneficiaries being people with disabilities, low-income groups, tourism businesses and policy makers.

4.1 Impact for people with disabilities and low income groups through increasing information and support options for end-users:

The development of the accessibility information service `EuropeForAll' (2007) by the EU-funded OSSATE project has facilitated the widening of participation for the European accessibility-requiring market of over 127 million (research output 2.2). Central to the development of this information service was Surrey's analysis of the market and existing access schemes. The information service is the first European-wide scheme, which represents a major advance in the provision of information on accessible facilities (Letter of support `TourismForAll').

Apart from better fulfilling informational needs, our research has called for support at all stages in the delivery of social tourism in order to realise effective social outcomes. In 2010, Tourism Flanders (Regional Tourist Board for Northern Belgium) organised several workshops to introduce our research findings to social tourism partners. Subsequently these recommendations were implemented by the Tourism Flanders' Holiday Participation Centre. Following these recommendations, in 2011 Tourism Flanders funded (€375,000) the development of a network of regional `travel shops' in social support organisations. These travel shops comprise teams of support workers who specialise in helping socially excluded groups to overcome barriers to tourism participation. Tourism Flanders also produced a booklet (distributed in 1500 copies) with family activities, to help prepare socially excluded groups for their holiday experience — a number of the activities are directly linked to key challenges raised in the research (Letter of support `Tourism Flanders').

4.2 Impact on Tourism businesses through new innovative inclusion initiatives and accessibility tourism networks

Following Surrey's research, VACA, the largest social tourism provider in Wallonia, extended existing and introduced new inclusion measures and initiatives: they now work more closely with social support organisations, have introduced a charity initiative and aim to benefit the local community through their economic activities where possible (Letter of support `VACA'). In addition, the FETE scheme, funded under the EU's Calypso programme, for which Surrey was a research partner, produced a pilot exchange scheme between Belgium, Germany, Sweden and Finland. 14 young people without prior international travel experience were given the opportunity to visit a non-neighbouring partner country in the low season. The project produced direct social and economic impacts on the beneficiaries and touristic partners involved. Tourism businesses were further supported through the establishment of accessibility tourism networks. The `Europeforall' website, based on Surrey's research, enabled individual destinations, such as `VisitOslo', to improve the provision of accessibility information by adopting the OSSATE scheme. This now represents an integral aspect of their organisational procedures for improving the quality of their information delivery and auditing system for venues (Support letter `VisitOslo'). Surrey's research has also led to the creation of a knowledge-based network through the CETA research ( This network provides SMEs with information about good practice, market information, advice on accessibility as well as education and training possibilities.

4.3 Surrey's research impact on policy makers and contributed to policy recommendations The impact of Surrey's social tourism research has been recognized by the chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on social tourism. It is mentioned 10 times in the APPG's report `Giving Britain a Break'. In Europe, the University's social tourism research has contributed to the enhanced position of social tourism on the political agenda of the Flemish regional government. The provision of detailed information about the size of the market with access needs (research output 2.2) has influenced European policies in the area of accessible transport and anti-discrimination via the EC's impact assessments (COM(2008)816 final). Particularly, the report `Accessibility Market and Stakeholder Analysis' by Surrey is quoted in this EU document to stress the need to place greater emphasis on accessibility and consumer protection in the EU. Outside Europe, the study has led to a project by the Ministry of Tourism in Thailand to encourage greater accessibility, piloted in Bangkok, Chon Buri, Chiang Mai and Puhket News (TTR Weekly).

Sources to corroborate the impact

For impact 4.1

C1) European website on accessible travel:

C2) `Tourism For All — UK' (Provided statement)

C3) FETE final report

For impact 4.2


C5) Knowledge-based network for SMEs:

C6) VACA Tourism — (Provided statement)

For impact 4.3

C7) EC Document: Commission of the European Communities (2008) Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the rights of passengers when travelling by sea and inland waterways and amending regulation (EC) No 2006/2004 on cooperation between national authorities responsible for the enforcement of consumer protection laws, COM(2008)816 final; SEC(2008) 2950:

C8) Press release: — "Ministry to help disabled tourists" as further evidence that OSSATE demand study (`Accessibility Market and Stakeholder Analysis') has influenced their decision to initiate this project on accessibility.

C9) All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) Report: Giving Britain a Break

C10) Tourism Flanders (Provided statement)