Spiritual Tourism

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About Spiritual Tourism

This article investigates spiritual tourism – tourism characterised by an intentional search for spiritual benefit – from a contemporary religious studies perspective. Using field research gathered from spiritual tourism locations in Asia and Europe, and utilizing contemporary scholarship on practices concerned with meaning and identity, it explores the phenomena of journeys that are taken for self transformation, tracing the history of transformative ideas in Western cultures of travel, and including the modes in which the travel experience has been communicated. Spiritual Tourism provides an important opportunity to comment on the role of tourism in contemporary conceptions of spirituality and spiritual practice in Western society.

TOP 10 Spiritual Places with The Strongest Energy Field

TOP 10 Spiritual Places with The Strongest Energy Field

There are places in the world, where you can feel the connection with the divine – one of them Rila’s Lakes, known for strong energy field. Where sensitive people dream strange things, after spending the night there. Such type of places could give you answers to a long asked questions and make you feel the energy concentrated on a more spiritual level.


The peak has religious significance for 2 religions – Buddhism and Hinduism. Both of the religions have their own legends about the place, but united around the assertion that the tip is the home of the gods and one of the energy centers of the world where climbing it can bring spiritual bliss.


The lost city of the Incas is one of the places linked to the energy centers of the world. The Incas built Machu Picchu in a particular place, high in the Andes. The place itself channels the energy and allows people to experience something that just does not belong to our world.


Socotra is an archipelago of four islands in the Indian Ocean to the Horn of Africa, The largest occupies about 95 percent of the total area of the island. Its specific landscape as well as flora and fauna look like come out of a science fiction movie and can easily make you think you are on another planet or in prehistoric times. As a result of isolation, at Socotra were born many specific species that are found nowhere else in the world. The spiritual energy here connects the human soul directly with the cosmos.

Recommended: The Chakras Of The Earth, 7 Amazing Places Filled With Powerful Energy


Located in the center of the continental country, Uluru is the spiritual center of Australia. Legends say that the plateau itself is hollow and it is an energy source, which they call Tiukurpa (Dreamtime). Ancient tribes surrounding the plateau have left many stories from the “Dreamtime” painted in some of the caves in the area. In the tribes has remained the belief that when a person goes around the plateau, he gets spiritual visions.


This is one of the most isolated places in the world, which is home to a huge statues. Scientists have absolutely no answer to the question “Who made them?” Overall the whole place is a complete mystery – and unfinished figures, ceremonial village with its 53 stone houses without windows and doors and many others. The biggest mystery, however, remains so. “Navel of the World” – it is said that this is the circular stone bearing the secrets of the universe, the one who collects the most important spiritual energy lines of the Earth.


The ancient sanctuary Belintash- Bulgaria is one of the three points (Belintash <> Cross Forest <> Karadjov stone), forming one of the strongest energy zones in Europe. On the rocky plateau are outlined mirror projections of important parts of the star chart. In the area around Belintash and in it, there is a strong energy, and hundreds of people testify for a frequent paranormal phenomena.

Recommended: In This Amazing City People Live Without Politics, No Religion And No Money


Is the pride of Albanian architecture. The old town is under UNESCO protection. Berat presents a wonderful combination of eastern and western culture, traditions and customs. The town is a treasury of Albanian history and is evidence of the harmony between religion and culture. In Berat, people experience very powerful, spiritual healing energy. In the III century the city became “the city- castle”. Today, behind the city walls are still living people, who don’t believe in disease, that make this place unique and authentic.


Stonehenge is the most famous megalithic monument in the world,probably dedicated to the Sun, with an ancient necropolis. Located in the middle of Salisbury Plain in the county of Wiltshire, UK. Probably functioned as an astronomical observatory in connection with cults and economic performance of the agricultural population. It is constructed from the monolithic slabs and pillars, forming concentric circles.


They are on the planet long before the Neolithic era. Radio-carbon analyzes conducted by the University of Shlyonsk / Poland, 2011 / date this pyramids before 12,350 years / plus / minus 50 years /. According to this analyzes, The Bosnian pyramidal structures are thousands of years older than the Egyptian pyramids. Under the pyramid were found three underground rooms and a little blue lake. The lake is with sterile clean water, no bacteria, algae, fungi, microorganisms, animals, or moss and mud. They call it living water because it purifies  the body. This means that these facilities are “healing rooms”. Human body regenerate faster and the illness disappears.

Recommended: Welcome to the Island Where People Forget to Die And Diseases Like Lung Cancer Mysteriously Disappear


Some might seem surprised, but this mountain range is one of the energy centers of the world. Not accidentally, one of the greatest spiritual masters of the XX century – Beinsa Duno is Bulgarian and has chosen to transmit wisdom in Rila. The area around Rila’s Lakes actually has very strong energy and more sensitive people feel it and receive strange dreams when they stay in the area.

International Conference on Spiritual Tourism for Sustainable Development


Spiritualists of All Time

Jesus Christ

Gautam Bhudha

Masters come way before God as it is the master that leads us to God. India is a land where spirituality has always been to its boom. There are many spiritual and religious gurus in India, who help the people on the path of meditation and inner peace. Through these gurus people from all over the world connect with the supreme power leading to a healthier and a happier life. Below is a list of  top  world spiritualists who have contributed in the well-being of people and society as a whole in one or the other way. All these gurus have an immensely large number of devotees who treat them as supreme beings or as the messengers of God. Scroll down to have a look.

Mata Amritanandamayi Devi

Mata Amritanandamayi is known as the ‘hugging amma’ of Kerala. She is believed to have more than a million followers. Mata Amritanandamayi is also known as the richest god woman in the country. She has opened up many schools and hospitals for the betterment of people in Kochi, Kollam, Mysore, Bangalore and Coimbatore. She preaches spirituality and the path to inner peace.

Mata Amritanandamayi - Indian Spiritualists of All Time

Sadguru Jaggi Vasudev

Yogi, mystic, and visionary, Sadhguru is a spiritual master with a difference. An arresting blend of profundity and pragmatism, his life and work serve as a reminder that yoga is not an esoteric discipline from an outdated past, but a contemporary science, vitally relevant to our times. Probing, passionate and provocative, insightful, logical and unfailingly witty, Sadhguru’s talks have earned him the reputation of a speaker and opinion-maker of international renown.

Sai Baba:

Known as a reincarnation of Sai Baba of Shiridi, Sathya Sai Baba was very popular among millions of his devotees. According to him the best way to reach out to the supreme power was by serving the mankind. He was also known for miraculously materializing things like flowers, rings and Prasad from the air. He still has a large number of followers in countries all over the world.

Sathya Sai Baba - Indian Spiritualists of All Time

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is one of the most popular spiritual gurus of all time. Founder of the course, ‘The Art of Living’, Ravi Shankar has followers from all over the world. Through this course he teaches people about being satisfied and to look upto god for everything. He has touched and changed many lives for the good. His contribution and impact has made him the 5th most powerful leader in India.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar - Indian Spiritualists of All Time

Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa:

One of the most famous devotees of the Goddess Kali since time immemorial, Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa was the force behind Swami Vivekananda’s spiritual ascension. He was known for its frequent Samadhis (The highest state of consciousness). Born as Gadadhar, he grew up to become Sri Ramakrishna, a saint who’d be worshiped and followed for centuries to come. Romain Rolland, a French mystic, novelist, historian and Nobel Prize winner had this to say about Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa: “the perfection of two thousand years of the spiritual life of three hundred million people.”

Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa - Indian Spiritualists of All Time

Swami Vivekananda:

Way back in 1863, a saint was born and named Vivekananda. With his guru Ramakrishna’s guidance, Vivekananda went on a journey to find the truth about God. An advocate of  Vedanta, he told people that the best way to serve God was through serving mankind. Vivekananda made Hinduism a world religion by introducing it in the Parliament of World Religions at Chicago.

Swami Vivekananda - Indian Spiritualists of All Time


 Swami Rama:

Swami Rama was the first person to introduce yoga to the popular culture. He studied at Menninger clinic in USA and was able to control his heartbeat, body temperature and blood pressure. He opened the Himalayan Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy, which helped people to stay fit and meditate for inner peace.

Swami Rama - Indian Spiritualists of All Time

Mother Therassa

Image result for mother teresa photos


‘One man’s terrorist is another man’s god’, a saying that goes with the spiritual guru Osho very well. He was outspoken about his ideas relating to socialism and many other things, which made him one of the most controversial gurus. With a large number of devotees from all over the world, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh before he became popular as Osho is still very popular among devotees.Osho - Indian Spiritualists of All Time

Jiddu Krishnamurti:

Theosophists had predicted that Jiddu Krishnamurti, a young lad from India was going to be a world teacher. Therefore, he along with his brother was adopted by the president of the Theosophical Society. He was made top boss of the Order of the East, a new organization. To everyone’s surprise, Jiddu went on to renounce his role as the head of this organization, traveled all over the world for many decades at a stretch, wrote a multitude of books and delivered countless talks. He did not talk about complex religious principles, rituals or hypothetical philosophies. One of the greatest Indian spiritualists, Jiddu Krishnamurti just exposed the complexities that already exist in our day to day lives and are yet invisible to us because we do not understand the working of the mind and most importantly, the magic of silence.

Jiddu Krishnamurti - Indian Spiritualists of All Time

In This Amazing City People Live Without Politics, No Religion And No Money2

amazing city


Think only in a place where there are none of these factors, where you can finally live in peace.

This place exists and is called “Auroville“!


It was founded in 1968 and was hailed as an international city by UNESCO, as its inhabitants are over 50 nationalities and different cultures. They coexist without any problem, since they have a political system, have no religion, and on top, do not use money and getting all living through the system of exchanges.



In this epic city, the buildings are made based on an experimental architecture, as they are constantly changing. This is because these structures seek to optimize the use of renewable energies and their main objective: reuse and recycling.

Recommended: TOP 10 Spiritual Places with The Strongest Energy Field



“There should be a place on Earth that no nation could claim as their own; where all human beings of good will who have a sincere aspiration could live freely as citizens of the world, obeying one single authority, that of the supreme truth. A place of peace, concord and harmony where all the fighting instinct in man were used exclusively to overcome the cause of their sufferings and miseries, to overcome their weaknesses and ignorance, and to triumph over their limitations and disabilities. A place where the needs of the spirit and interest of progress precedence over the satisfaction of desires and passions or the pursuit of pleasure and material enjoyment, “was the idea of Alfassa.



This city is positioning itself as a model of sustainable eco-city. It is a method developed by the multi-cropping, combining fruit trees, cornfields and orchards, organized into 15 farms, reaching an area of 160 hectares. In this way, they ensure much food, so supply the population.

In these farms work 50 villagers and 300 neighbors, producing 2% of rice and cereals consumed and 50% of vegetables.

Recommended: The Chakras Of The Earth, 7 Amazing Places Filled With Powerful Energy

Also, the village is also self-sufficient in milk and dairy products, and fruits in season.




Definitely this city is an example, where one of its principles is healthy, both mentally and physical life.

we have nothing more to congratulate and wish all follow that model of life.Would you be in agreement with this new style of society?

Source Auroville.org

With a view towards enhancing the positive effects of spiritual tourism on the economic and social advancement of communities and societies, thefirst UNWTO International Conference on Spiritual Tourism for Sustainable Development will explore ways in which living culture, traditions and beliefs can be integrated into tourism while respecting the four pillars of sustainability: environmental, economic, social and cultural. It will draw particular attention to the following areas: a) understanding and safeguarding of spiritual, religious and cultural values and assets in the context of tourism, b) development, management, promotion, and interpretation of spiritual tourism products, and, c) socioeconomic inclusion and empowerment of local communities, in particular of vulnerable groups.

For more information, please click here.


New research is emerging on the relationships between tourism and quality of life (QOL) and subjective well-being (SWB). This paper develops a measure of SWB and reports findings from a two-step survey that measured changes in well-being amongst low-income individuals who had received financial support to access a holiday break (‘social tourists’). This is the first study to assess well-being amongst social tourists. The findings indicate that tourism contributes to social tourist’s well-being. There are greater effects in some areas including psychological resources, leisure and family life domains contributing to social well-being. Social tourists have lower levels of SWB than the general population. Further studies are needed to compare tourism’s contribution to SWB amongst mainstream tourists.


► Demonstrates link between social tourism and improvements in subjective well-being. ► Develops a measure of subjective well-being useful for future tourism studies. ► Extends the debate around tourism’s effects on quality of life and well-being. ► Contributes to social science understanding of tourism’s effects on individuals.


Recent research has broadened our understanding of the effects of tourism experiences on tourist’s psychological states beyond issues of motivation and satisfaction that formed the thrust of earlier research in the field (Dann, 1979Dann, 2012 and Pearce and Lee, 2005). New theorisations and empirical research have sought to connect tourist behaviour to other spheres of people’s lives and experiences, and to explore the broader consequences of tourism activity on the lives of others (Sirgy, 2010 and Uysal et al., 2012). Whilst the personal benefits accruing from tourism participation may be contestable, until recently relatively few studies had examined the putative links between tourism and happiness, subjective well-being (SWB) and quality of life (QOL), or the factors that influence the relationship between tourism and QOL (Dolnicar, Yanamandram, & Cliff, 2012). Critically, no studies have explored the areas of SWB that are most affected by tourism experiences.

It is widely recognised that tourist experiences do produce effects on tourists, yet recent reviews point out that there has been little attempt to integrate research on such social-psychological impacts for tourists into wider tourism research (Deery, Jago, & Fredline, 2012). Stereotypical marketing representations of ‘sun, sea and sand’ tourism downplay the contribution that holidays provide in terms of health and well-being (Hobson & Dietrich, 1994). Recent trends in activity-based tourism, wellness and spirituality-related tourism (Puczkó & Smith, 2012) in developed countries at least, attest to an implicit association between holidays and non-material aspects of well-being (Cohen, 1979 and Li, 2000). Yet much of the research on tourist experiences has focused on understanding motivations and satisfaction with holiday outcomes (Crompton, 1979), albeit that some research has gone on to investigate the links between such satisfactory outcomes and QOL (Neal et al., 1999 and Neal et al., 2004). Consequently, the research findings on the motivations for tourism and life satisfaction have remained discrete, ‘idiosyncratic and disjointed’ ( Dann, 2012, p. 285).

The current paper concerns the effects of tourism for social tourists, because the extent that conventional understandings of motivation and life satisfaction can be applied in this context is less clear. Social tourism is defined as deriving from the participation of disadvantaged groups in tourism activity, facilitated by financial and social measures (Haulot, 1982). Thus motivations and assessments of outcomes may be influenced by personal and objective circumstances and consequently a need arises to examine the effects of tourism opportunities for these groups. This study aimed to explore whether (and if so, in what ways) participation in tourism affects SWB amongst social tourists. Key questions concerned whether taking a holiday had increased self-reported SWB. If there were increases in SWB, what was the strength of the improvement and which aspects (domains) of SWB were improved? Also, it was important to consider disadvantaged individuals’ states of well-being within the context of the wider population, to understand the specific and contextual factors that impinge on SWB assessments.

Recently a number of contributions have both broadened the debates and lent critical insights into tourism’s effects on and the relationships between SWB, QOL, health and happiness (Cini et al., 2012De Bloom et al., 2012 and Filep, 2012). Therefore whilst links between SWB and tourism are emerging, consensus on how SWB is constituted is far from clear. This paper outlines these differences to situate its focus on SWB. As measures of SWB are developing in the UK context (Office for National Statistics, 2011), a further aim was to contribute to the debate concerning the role of tourism as a potential contributory factor to the leisure domain of life in line with recent studies (Dolnicar et al., 2012). The paper proposes a measure of SWB that integrates a range of existing items incorporating aspects of psychological resources and social well-being that contribute to eudaemonic well-being, offering potential value to future studies on tourism’s contributions to well-being.


The concept of SWB deals with the extent to which life has meaning, sometimes referred to as authentic living, ‘living well’ or the ‘good life’ (after Aristotle, Ryff, 1989). Essentially, subjective well-being attempts to understand what makes people happy, contented with life (Diener, 1984). Interest in subjective well-being developed because of the recognised weak links between objective circumstances (wealth etc.) and levels of happiness (Layard, 2006). It is only in recent times that concepts of well-being have been extended beyond objective measures of wealth and material circumstances. However, it is now widely agreed that well-being comprises multiple dimensions including subjective assessments (Organisation for Economic Cooperation, 2011). Measures of SWB are continually being refined as the concept is becoming increasingly important. As Andrews argued, ‘there is near-universal agreement that promotion of individual well-being … is one of the legitimate goals—perhaps the most important goal—of the modern state’ ( Andrews, 1974, pp. 279–280).

There is a need to understand what drives well-being because lower perceptions of well-being have been attributed to depression and anxiety, stress and the need for therapy. Whereas high levels are associated with enjoyment of work, happiness and life satisfaction (Steger, Frazier, Kaler, & Oishi, 2006). Thus, objective and subjective measures of well-being overlap, for example in relation to health, housing and education. In order to obtain the best picture of a person’s well-being, many commentators argue that a mixture of both objective and subjective measures is needed. However, it has been claimed a major ‘problem in research on well-being is the lack of relationship, or at best the weak relationship between ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ measures’ ( Kahn & Juster, 2002, p. 629).

The goal to establish subjective measures has taken different directions amongst researchers. Subjective well-being has often been operationalized as an individual’s assessment of satisfaction with the quality of their life (QOL) as a whole and/or the quality of aspects or domains of life (Cummins et al., 2003 and Diener and Suh, 1997). Life satisfaction can be defined as the ‘degree to which an individual judges the overall quality of his life-as-a-whole favourably’ ( Veenhoven, 1991, p. 7). Life satisfaction is therefore a cognitive, judgemental process, consisting of a global assessment of a person’s quality of life according to the individual’s chosen criteria together with hedonic aspects.

Individuals judge different aspects of life more importantly than others and so it is also important to understand which domains of life contribute to life satisfaction. For example, the World Health Organisation Quality of Life Group defined QOL as “‘individuals’ perception of their position in life in the context of their culture and value system and in relation to their goals, expectations, standards and concerns. It is a broad ranging concept affected in a complex way by the persons physical health, psychological state, level of independence, social relationships, and their relationships to salient features of their environment.” ( World Health Organisation Quality of Life Group 1998, p. 1). How the domains interrelate, and which domains contribute most overall to life satisfaction, is unclear, however (Dolnicar et al., 2012). These questions depend on the value an individual attaches to different experiences in life or the value they attach to various domains of their lives (Sirgy, 2010). Therefore personal values interact with subjective assessments of life satisfaction and conditions of life to determine QOL.

However, recent research has questioned the efficacy of satisfaction as the sole basis for SWB. The New Economics Foundation concluded that there ‘is more to life than satisfaction’ and that measures of well-being need to include questions that explored personal development, or at least the capacity for it ( Marks, 2004). In this approach, SWB is linked to concept of eudaemonia, described as the extent an individual perceives an ability for personal growth and psychological strengths, a sense that they have the resources and skills to be able to meet their goals or maximise their potential (Ryan & Deci, 2001). This developmental aspect can be measured as an index of positive functioning (Kahn & Juster, 2002), alongside considerations of people’s objective and subjective situations (Pollard & Lee, 2003). Therefore SWB incorporates different aspects of well-being in addition to assessments of the quality of life.

Well-being is furthermore often described in terms of happiness. Happiness has been recognised as an important goal of society, and there has been an explosion of research undertaken in terms of understanding what makes people happy (Lyubomirsky & Lepper, 1999). Happiness is sometimes more broadly defined as SWB, since improvements in objective circumstances have proven to yield limited increases in happiness (Layard, 2006). Similarly of interest is how some people remain chronically happy despite personal tragedy, whilst others perceive themselves as unhappy even though surrounded by comfort and advantages. Happiness is most commonly measured by a variant of Bradburn’s (1969) Affect Balance Scale, which measures the extent of positive emotions and the absence of negative emotions to determine levels of happiness. Happiness therefore can be considered to contribute to emotional (affective) SWB, whereas cognitive SWB is largely measured through inventories of satisfaction with life and positive functioning. Some studies focus more on affective SWB with an emphasis on affect balance (e.g. Gilbert & Abdullah, 2004).

The New Economics Foundation definition of SWB highlights the role of psychological resources as well as the interaction between different areas of life, as: ‘gives people a sense of how their lives are going, through the interaction between their circumstances, activities and psychological resources’ ( New Economics Foundation (nef), 2009, p. 18). Therefore in recent conceptualisations, SWB is an integrative concept incorporating generic assessments of satisfaction with life overall, together with satisfaction in various domains of life, subjective assessments of emotional and social well-being, and assessments of the psychological resources that enable the individual to achieve their full potential and function positively.

This discussion identifies that there are connections between the concept of SWB and related concepts, which have been examined in recent research on the effects of tourism on individuals’ subjective and affective states (Dolnicar et al., 2012McCabe et al., 2010Nawijn et al., 2010 and Neal et al., 2007). However, there are subtle imbrications between them, indicating a need to clarify SWB and the potential applications to tourism. SWB offers a useful approach within tourism for a number of reasons. Tourism experience is often considered to be a high-involvement consumer activity that has the potential to contribute to personal growth and self-development (Li, 2000 and Richards, 1999), linking to the concept of eudaemonia. Additionally SWB provides a more integrative concept, which offers greater possibilities to explore how tourism experiences interact with different aspects of well-being.

Well-being and Tourism—An Emerging Dynamic

There is an emerging interest in tourism’s relationship to well-being across a range of disciplines and contexts. Dolnicar et al have recently stated that ‘it remains unclear whether vacations—as opposed to leisure time at home—contribute to peoples QOL, to which extent, and whether people differ in the extent to which vacations contribute to their QOL.’ ( 2012, p. 59). Leisure is important to QOL. The World Health Organisation Quality of Life Assessment measures QOL with a 29-item scale that includes leisure. This study found that “participation in and opportunities for recreation/leisure activities” was found to be a significant contributor to QOL, underpinning the importance of leisure generally ( World Health Organisation Quality of Life Group, 1998).

Neal et al. (2004) argue that ‘QOL studies in tourism should be promoted’ ( 2004, p. 244). Their work established a link between satisfaction with tourism services and general life satisfaction. Satisfaction with tourism (positioned within the leisure domain), and satisfaction with various aspects of tourism services were measured before, during and after the trip. The two measurement scales consisted of 36 variables exploring aspects of satisfaction with tourism (including also leisure at home). These studies established a link between tourism satisfaction and general life satisfaction for the first time.

Recent research has aimed to demonstrate that vacations do have an impact on QOL (Dolnicar et al., 2012). Vacations are positioned as ‘balance’ leisure activities (Kelly, 1985), as opposed to ‘structure’ leisure, characterised as home-based, regular, familiar, and accordingly distinct in terms of their contribution to QOL. As a sub-domain, Dolnicar et al found that significant domain heterogeneity existed such that respondents could be categorised according to their rankings of these different domains’ contributions to QOL. One life circumstance that was seen to influence the importance of vacations for QOL was financial circumstances, alongside different stages in life. In this analysis, individuals might weigh vacations as core to their assessment of what contributes to their QOL, whilst others might weight vacations as part of ‘enhancement’ aspects of QOL (Dolnicar, Lazarevski, & Yanamandram, 2011).

The importance of tourism to QOL depends on the value attached by people to tourism-related goals (Sirgy, 2010). Some people value tourism experiences more highly, and so it is likely that they are likely to prioritise tourism consumption more highly. Sirgy points out that tourism decisions are goal-driven. The goal-valence principle states that tourism satisfaction will be enhanced when touristic goals are selected, for which attainment is likely to induce high positive affect in various life domains. Tourism experiences may produce positive affect directly in relation to the leisure domain and indirectly in other life domains, such as love life, social life, family-life, spiritual and work life: “Thus, … positive affect in major life domains contribute directly to life satisfaction or overall happiness” ( Sirgy, 2010, p. 248).

Sirgy suggests a series of propositions concerning goal valence theory and it’s implications for SWB. One concerns goals related to growth versus basic needs. This proposition is based on Herzberg, Mausner, and Snyderman’s (1959) two-factor theory of employee satisfaction and dissatisfaction, such that ‘growth’ factors (recognition and responsibility) are more likely to influence job satisfaction levels, whereas ‘hygiene’ factors (pay and working conditions) are less likely to influence satisfaction but are very strongly linked to job dissatisfaction. In terms of tourism, growth needs might include high involvement tourism experiences, those linked to personal and spiritual development. Basic needs might include low involvement or passive tourist experiences, such as relaxation, entertainment and escapism. Sirgy argues that tourism goals related to growth needs are likely to contribute more to life satisfaction and positive affect, because of their potential to lead to satisfaction in wider life domains (other than leisure needs) and thus to significant increases in SWB (2010, pp. 249–250).

SWB is often used to measure the outcomes and benefits of a project, intervention or activity. The study by Gilbert and Abdullah (2004) remains the most significant in the tourism literature. These authors measured SWB for two groups, those taking a holiday and non-participants. The survey was given twice to the two groups; for the group going on the holiday, this was pre and post-holiday. SWB was measured as three separate components: positive and negative affect, life domains and life satisfaction. Small increases were found in SWB scores in the holidaying group compared to non-tourists.

Related research has measured the effects of longer holidays on health and well-being (De Bloom et al., 2012). This study measured health and well-being levels before, during and after longer vacations. They found that health and well-being levels improved early in the holiday but returned to base levels rapidly on return to work. Holiday activities and experiences were only weakly associated with improvements in health and well-being. Whereas passive activities, savouring, and pleasure derived from activities, relaxation and control as well as sleep were strongly correlated with health and well-being improvements especially during the holiday, but also somewhat afterwards additionally. Savouring, the anticipation of positive outcomes, has been found to be an important factor in relation to perceived control (Bryant 2006), thus could potentially influence SWB factors.

The majority of research in the area of QOL and tourism is directed towards understanding the implications of tourism development on QOL for residents of destinations (Perdue et al., 1990 and Uysal et al., 2012). Related work in the area of environmental psychology has explored the effects of different environments on psychological functioning (Kaplan, 1995), the effects of favourite places on ‘psychological restoration’ and affect (Korpela & Hartig, 1996) and recent work that has extended these ideas to tourism-related environments (Ashbulby, White, Pahl, & Depledge, 2012).

Further studies have shown a relationship between tourism and life satisfaction/well-being in different contexts such as Hungarian tourists (Michalkò, Ratz, & Bakucz, 2010), and explored the links between motivations for visits to a national park and self-reported SWB (Cini et al., 2012). Filep (2012) calls for greater use of qualitative approaches to understanding happiness within the context of tourist experiences. Finally, McCabe et al. (2010) reviewed the concpetual issues around SWB and quality of life in the context of social tourism, reporting on a pilot study of partial indicators from the World Health Organization’s Quality of Life scales. However, this study used only a few of these measures, and the findings lacked comparability.

Social Tourism and Subjective Well-Being

Dann, 2001 and Dann, 2012 points out that in a range of contexts, researchers have sought to understand linkages between tourism and QOL amongst disadvantaged members of society, for example amongst senior citizens, the disabled (Lord & Patterson, 2008), cancer patients (Hunter-Jones, 2004) and others. Dann argues that ‘Many of these classes of person are socially disadvantaged and, hence, may regard tourism positively either as a temporary means of alleviating their negative conditions, and/or as a basic human right … thereby also contributing to an amelioration of overall life quality.’ Indeed, it is in this context that the current study aimed to assess whether and how tourism contributes to SWB.

Social tourism has received renewed interest from the academic community as tourism’s importance within developed economies and societies has become established. Various researchers have sought to highlight: the transformative social possibilities of tourism (Higgins-Desbiolles, 2006); concerns about equality of access and participation (Minnaert, Quinn, Griffen, & Stacey, 2010); and the individual and social benefits that can be derived from participation by disadvantaged groups (Minnaert, Maitland, & Miller, 2009). The benefits of social tourism have been elaborated in relation to specific groups, such as children with terminal cancer (e.g. Hunter-Jones, 2004).

Tourism’s potential as a social policy tool has been highlighted including the role of holidays as a form of intervention in social care (Minnaert & Schapmans, 2009). These studies have focused on the health and social benefits and wider welfare implications that tourism can bring to disadvantaged or excluded individuals (McCabe, 2009). Yet all the research found in the literature relating QOL and tourism was based on an assumption that tourism opportunities exist for all in society. The study by Gilbert and Abdullah (2004) was the only example where a control group of non-tourists was included in the sample; however, the reasons for non-participation were not addressed, and 21% had recently been on holiday, whilst others did participate during the study. The presumption of tourism as a consumer activity available to all in society raises some critical questions concerning SWB and tourism participation.

In Sirgy’s (2010) analysis tourism is posed as a discretionary consumer good, complementing general tourism decision-making theory, which argues that choice is based on utility optimisation (Sirakaya & Woodside, 2005). However, at different times of the lifecycle, or in response to particular circumstances or situational factors, tourists may have different needs and goals and so therefore theoretically in some circumstances basic goals could yield greater levels of satisfaction or SWB scores. In the context of social tourism, where consumption choices are constrained by economic (and often other) factors (McGuire, Dottavio & O’Leary, 1986) a series of questions arise concerning the benefits of tourism opportunities for these groups. Sirgy also argues that the attainment of goals related to ‘deprived needs’ may be significantly more likely to produce higher levels of SWB than ‘non-deprived needs’ (2010, p. 250).

This is worth exploring in the context of social tourism. Particularly, the current study focuses on the following questions. Do assessments of SWB change after a holiday? Which aspects of SWB are affected most? Does the intervention of a holiday have a greater effect on SWB in relation to satisfaction with the leisure domain or more general life domains? Do social tourists have lower average levels of satisfaction with their lives than the general population, and how does this influence the links between tourism and well-being? Social tourists are mainly unemployed, have reduced access to opportunities for material and non-material consumption. Therefore what are the links between circumstances of disadvantaged groups and any changes in self-reported SWB?


This study was undertaken in the UK in partnership with the Family Holiday Association, a UK-wide charity specialising in supporting low-income families with financial and other support to take a holiday break. The charity has engaged in previous research to evidence the benefits of social tourism (McCabe, 2009 and Minnaert et al., 2009), and this study sought to extend this to understand the effects of holiday breaks in the context of UK policy on well-being.

Therefore to develop a measure of SWB we adopted a range of measures of composite aspects drawing on established scales (see Table 1). To assess satisfaction with key aspects of life, the British Household Panel Survey measure of life domains was chosen (Institute for Social & Economic Research, 2009) (section A on Table 1). This measure has been used in a number of studies, especially in the UK. Eight life domains are measured (health, income, housing, family, employment, social life, amount of leisure time and use of leisure time). This measure was also chosen because it contains two leisure-focused domains, and because it closely mirrors the range of domains used in international contexts. In order to measure emotional well-being (positive and negative affect), we adopted a four-item scale from the New Economics Foundation study, which has two questions relating to positive affect and two questions relating to negative affect (Section B).

Table 1.

Subjective Well-Being Scale Items

Item No Aspect of well-being source/scale reliability (Cronbach’s alpha) Question/scale
  Section A: Life domains
Source: British Household Panel Survey (BHPS), Institute for Social & Economic Research, 2009.
(a = .796)
Scale: 1 = not satisfied to 7 = completely satisfied
1 Health Satisfaction with health
2 Income Satisfaction with income
3 Accommodation Satisfaction with accommodation
4 Family Satisfaction with family
5 Employment status Satisfaction with employment status
6 Social life Satisfaction with social life
7 Amount of leisure time Satisfaction with amount of leisure time
8 Spend leisure time Satisfaction with way spend leisure time
  Section B: Emotional well-being (Positive affect)
Source: National accounts of well-being, New Economics Foundation (nef)., 2009.
(a = .782)
Scale: 1 = none or almost none of the time to 4 = all or almost all of the time
9 Happy How much of the time during the past week you were happy
10 Enjoyed life How much of the time during the past week you enjoyed life
  Emotional well-being (Negative affect)
(a = .876)
Scale: 1 = none or almost none of the time to 4 = all or almost all of the time
11 Depressed How much of the time during the past week you felt depressed
12 Sad How much of the time during the past week you felt sad
  Section C:
Satisfaction with life (SWLS)
Source: Satisfaction With Life Scale by Diener et al., 1985.
(a = .861)
Scale: 1 = strongly disagree to 7 = strongly agree
13 Close to idea In most ways my life is close to ideal
14 Conditions excellent The conditions of my life are excellent
15 Life satisfaction I am satisfied with my life
16 Important things So far I have gotten the important things in life
17 Change nothing If I could live my life over, I would change amount nothing
  Section D: Eudaemonic well-being (Psychological resources). Source: National accounts of well-being, New Economics Foundation (nef)., 2009.
Social well-being (Relationships)
(a = .488)
Scale: 1 = None of the time to 7 = All of the time
18 Family time enjoyable How much of time spent with your family that is enjoyable
19 Family time stressful How much of time spent with family that is stressful
20 Meet socially How often do you meet socially with friends, relatives or colleagues
21 People who care Do you have people in life who really care about you (1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree)
22 Discuss intimate matters Anyone to discuss intimate and personal matters (Yes or No answer)
23 Lonely How much of the time during past week have felt lonely (Scale: 1 = none or almost none of the time to 4 = all or almost all of the time)
  Positive functioning (Resilience and self esteem)
(a = .501)
Scale: 1 = strongly disagree and 5 = strongly agree
24 Positive In general I feel very positive about myself
25 Failure At times I feel as if I am a failure
26 Optimism I’m always optimistic about my future
27 Things go wrong When things go wrong in my life, it generally takes me a long time to get back to normal

Table options

To measure general life satisfaction, possibly the most widely adopted scale is Diener, Emmons, Lar.Sem, and Griffin’s (1985) Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS) (cf Athay, 2012 and Biswar-Diener and Diener, 2006). The SWLS measures general life satisfaction using five questions on a seven-point Likert scale, which can be used to provide an aggregate score (Section C). In order to incorporate specific items on positive functioning and social well-being, measures concerning relationships, self-esteem and resilience were included, also adopted from the nef national accounts of well-being (section D). Although the New Economics Foundation includes a range of items, we selected the items exploring relationships since improvements in relationships have been identified in previous studies in social tourism (McCabe, 2009 and Minnaert et al., 2009). Similarly items relating to resilience and self-esteem offer a useful four-item scale to assess psychological resources and have been found to yield improvements in social tourism research (Minnaert & Schapmans, 2009).

All the scales were applied in their original formats. Some of the scales have been used to aggregate composite scores of well-being, as well as to provide more detailed analysis of different aspects of SWB, as our intention was to be able to provide a complete picture of well-being. Since this is the first time these measures have been used together to gain a holistic picture of SWB, it was important to establish if they worked well with each other. The variables within each measure did not need to be tested for internal reliability, as they are established measures that have been validated in previous studies. In total there are 27 dimensions from the four measures of well-being, these 27 dimensions were tested internal reliability using Cronbach’s Alpha. The score was .902 and therefore all items within the methodology were confirmed as being internally consistent.

The methods for data collection followed the two-stage survey approach utilised by Gilbert and Abdullah (2004). The survey was first piloted with a small number of welfare agents who refer families to the Family Holiday Association. This pilot resulted in small adjustments being made. Data collection took place between July and December 2011. Lead applicants from a convenience sample of families were contacted by telephone (i.e. all families applying to the Family Holiday Association for funding assistance during the period of data collection). In total 642 lead applicants were contacted before going on the holiday, and a total of 168 pre-holiday surveys were completed (26.2% response rate). The same respondents were then contacted again between four and eight weeks after their return from holiday. In total, 127 post-holiday surveys were collected (75.6% response rate, 19.8% of the original sample).

The pre and post surveys asked exactly the same questions from the measures of well-being described above. However in addition the post-holiday survey contained further questions asking what improvement, if any, the holiday had on various aspects of well-being such as happiness, optimism and general outlook on life as a result of the holiday (seven point scale). Further questions explored improvements in health, the way leisure time is spent, social life, family bonds, and the amount of time spent with family that is stressful or enjoyable. A final question asked whether respondents felt that the holiday had improved their quality of life. These items all applied a five-point scale. Finally, each applicant completed an application form containing demographic information as well as details of circumstances and issues affecting the family. Some of these details were imported into the dataset to allow us to assess if specific circumstances affected SWB.

A control group was not included for a number of reasons. The Family Holiday Association only accepts applications up to the number it can fund each year, to avoid disappointment. Therefore within the population of this study it was not sensitive to include non-participants. Time and cost constraints prohibited a search for families with similar characteristics who were non-participants. The final sample represents around 20% of applicants contacted and 6.35% of all families assisted by the charity.

Ethical issues were very important due to the nature of circumstances faced by families who approach the Association. All referring agents were informed of the research and together with families were provided with a letter about the study. Families consented to their participation either by signing a form or by agreeing to a consent statement over the telephone. Personal details of the families were not collected and all data from the survey was stored in a secure way to conform to data protection procedures.

The data were treated as ordinal due to the scales being used, which determined the use of non-parametric tests in line with similar studies (Gilbert and Abdullah, 2004 and Peasgood, 2007). To measure if well-being changed after the holiday, a comparison of the two sets of scores was undertaken using the Wilcoxon signed rank test, which ‘converts scores to ranks and compares them at Time 1 and at Time 2’ ( Pallant, 2010, p. 230). Tests of correlation using Spearman’s rho were undertaken to indicate whether the most common circumstances and issues affecting social tourists influence their levels of SWB.

Firstly, the analysis addressed whether SWB scores altered when taken with the same group of people at two points in time, assuming that circumstances were largely the same, and yet with an intervening holiday experience. Second, were any changes in SWB attributable to the holiday? In order to address this issue we transformed data from questions on the post-holiday SWB survey (life domains of health, social life and leisure time; positive functioning and social well-being, including family bonds, optimism, time spent with the family that is stressful and time spent with the family is enjoyable; emotional well-being (affect balance); and satisfaction with life overall) so that they could be compared with answers from the additional post-holiday questions asking about the direct effects of the holiday on similar issues. This involved reducing the number of response options from seven to five by grouping the extreme values and comparing the means. Finally, the aim was to compare the SWB scores of social tourists with the general population and/or other disadvantaged groups to understand more about the character of the sample and the implications for the analysis of the effects of the holiday on SWB.


Of the 27 dimensions used to measure well-being, eight items showed statistically significant increases in score after the holiday (see Table 2): family (Asymp Sig. 0.004), social life (Asymp Sig. 0.005), amount of leisure time (Asymp Sig. 0.000), the way leisure time is spent (Asymp Sig. 0.003), time spent with family that is enjoyable (Asymp Sig 0.007), loneliness (Asymp. Sig 0.044), resilience (Asymp. Sig 0.026) and change nothing in life (Asymp. Sig 0.013). From the different areas of SWB measured in the survey, four items that changed significantly were within the QOL domains, one item in the SWLS, and three items related to positive functioning/social well-being. Therefore, significant changes were noted in these aggregated aspects of SWB (SWLS, satisfaction with life domains and psychological resources).

Table 2.

Aspects of Significant Change Between T1 and T2.

  Measures Pre
Wilcoxon Signed Rank Test
4 Family 5.76 6.06 1.55 1.35 Asymp Sig0.00
5 Employment 3.26 2.93 2.14 2.05 Asymp Sig.0.00
6 Social life 2.86 3.25 1.95 1.82 Asymp Sig.0.00
7 Amount of leisure time 2.50 3.06 1.68 1.70 Asymp Sig.0.00
8 Spend leisure time 2.99 3.47 1.95 1.84 Asymp Sig.0.00
17 Change nothing 3.66 4.07 2.25 1.96 Asymp Sig.0.01
18 Family time enjoyable 5.33 5.61 1.61 1.30 Asymp Sig0.00
19 Family time stressful 4.18 3.63 1.88 1.72 Asymp. Sig0.00
23 Lonely 2.18 2.01 .92 .94 Asymp Sig0.01
27 Resilience 3.14 2.82 1.43 1.38 Asymp Sig. 0.02

Table options

A further two items showed significant changes. These were decreases in satisfaction with employment status (Asymp Sig. 0.008) and time spent with family that is stressful (Asymp Sig 0.002). The decrease in the amount of time spent with family that is stressful suggests confirmation of the importance of family bonding and relationships as an outcome of holidays for social tourists (see McCabe et al., 2010). Change in satisfaction with employment status conflicts with previous research (Gilbert & Abdullah, 2004), which found an increase in satisfaction related to employment. This could be attributed to the fact that 64% of respondents in this sample were unemployed. The decreasing scores for satisfaction with employment status could indicate that respondents became less satisfied with their unemployed status as a result of the holiday.

The increases in scores within four of the QOL domains confirm findings from recent studies (Dolnicar et al., 2012) that highlighted the need to include finer detail on the leisure time aspect of QOL, arguing for the inclusion of tourism as a specific component of leisure-related QOL. The findings also support previous studies in social tourism that highlight the importance of quality family time resulting from holiday participation (Minnaert et al., 2009). These results now make a positive link between family life, social life, family time and well-being, particularly with regard to aspects of social well-being and positive functioning. Improvements in family relationships have previously been identified as a benefit of a holiday in tourism research outside of social tourism (Hilbrecht et al., 2008 and Sirgy, 2010). The potential impact of holidays on eudaemonic components of well-being offers potential for further analysis in tourism research contexts.

The findings confirm previous research linking the contribution of holidays to QOL and SWB, and demonstrate a strong link between holidays and leisure, the family and social time (Dolnicar et al., 2012Gilbert and Abdullah, 2004Neal et al., 2004 and Sirgy, 2010). Moreover, they point to the importance of holidays in contributing to improvements in scores in positive functioning/social well-being (Ryan & Deci, 2001; nef 2009). However, the picture was rather mixed. Previous research in social tourism demonstrated an increase in self-esteem resulting from participation in a holiday (Minnaert and Schapmans, 2009 and Minnaert et al., 2009), whereas this study found a small but not significant increase in self-esteem. Furthermore, positive and negative affect did not have any significant changes. Therefore inferences are limited in the extent that it is possible to directly attribute changes to the outcomes of the holiday itself. Also, it remained unknown whether other important changes in circumstances had occurred besides the holiday between these points. The following section explores whether changes in well-being could be linked to the holiday.

Can Changes in Well-Being be Linked to the Holiday?

When asked whether the holiday had an effect on happiness, quality of life and optimism, significant improvements were noted. 77.1% of respondents gave high ratings of happiness after the holiday. This supports previous research, as Genç states ‘tourism can also function indirectly … by stimulating positive affect in the individual and influencing the life in general’ ( Genç, 2012, p. 162). However, as noted, there were no significant changes in positive and negative affect between the pre and post well-being survey (Asymp Sig. 0.093). This could be attributed to the question, which asked about the amount of time respondents were happy in the past week rather than their general happiness after holiday. However, it also supports findings from previous studies which showed that positive affect peaks during specific days of the holiday and returning to balance levels very quickly upon return to daily life ( Nawijn, 2011 and Nawijn et al., 2010).

High levels of optimism 68.9% (mean 5.1148) were also reported after the holiday; this again conflicts with the well-being measures, where optimism actually decreased slightly afterwards (pre 3.2362, post 3.1654). This difference could be explained if the holiday led to only short-term increases in optimism during the time away. An alternative explanation could be the impact of savouring effects on this particular aspect (Bryant, 1989). The anticipation of a holiday might have increased levels of optimism above normal levels for this group prior to the holiday, which afterwards returned to equilibrium. Furthermore, it is widely understood that tourism can lead to opportunities for self-reflection and personal development (Li, 2000) and therefore the type of holiday experience may be influential. Finally, levels of optimism may be influenced negatively by a return to difficult circumstances in daily lives following a rare and much-needed break.

In terms of the effects of the holiday on QOL however, 83.7% of respondents reported that the holiday had improved this from moderately to extremely. Another key area where the holiday brought about improvements was in family life where around 69% of respondents reported ‘quite a bit’ to ‘extreme’ improvements in family bonds and 46% of respondents reported improvements in time spent with family that is enjoyable. This supports the findings from the well-being measures and previous research in social tourism (McCabe, 2009), as well as propositions about the contribution of tourism to various QOL domains raised by Sirgy (2010).

Over 30% of respondents also reported improvements in their health. This confirms the findings from the SWB questions on the survey, where only small changes were found. This was unexpected, as it was assumed unlikely that a short holiday would bring about significant changes in health, especially since social tourists often suffer complex mental and physical health problems. For leisure time and social life, which revealed significant changes in general well-being comparing before and after the holiday, there were no significant changes when respondents were asked about the direct impact of the holiday. This was perhaps expected since the holiday would unlikely have an immediate effect on situational aspects of well-being, which also contribute to tourism constraints for this group (McGuire, Dottavio, & O’Leary, 1986).

Table 3 compares results from the main QOL domains where there were significant changes in general well-being (leisure time, social life and family and family time), to questions which asked about the direct impacts of the holiday on these domains. The cumulative percentages (moderately, quite a bit and extremely) indicate that whilst the intensity of feeling differs in some domain aspects, similar levels of improvement in each domain were recorded in the general levels of well-being to those attributed directly to the holiday. This suggests that improvements in aspects of well-being can be directly linked to the holiday. Whilst the findings are compelling, it is not possible to infer a causal link between improvements in respondents’ general scores of SWB being directly attributable to the holiday through this method however.

Table 3.

Comparison of Well-Being Domains and Changes in Similar Domain Aspects Attributable to the Holiday

Leisure time (%) Social life (%) Family (%) Family time -stressful (%) Family time -enjoyable (%)
  a b a B a b a B a b a b
Very slightly or not at all 24.8 15.0 28.2 33.1 35.5 39.4 6.5 3.1 14.0 29.1 5.0 1.6
A little 22.4 15.7 27.4 18.9 26.6 20.5 9.8 4.7 36.4 18.1 14.9 7.1
Moderately 21.6 15.7 22.6 16.5 20.2 12.6 14.6 2.4 28.1 18.1 33.1 13.4
Quite a bit 26.4 16.5 16.9 14.2 15.3 15.0 35.0 13.4 15.7 18.9 32.2 13.4
Extremely 4.8 37.0 4.8 17.3 2.4 12.6 34.1 76.4 5.8 15.7 14.9 64.6
(Cumulative) 52.8 69.2 44.3 48.0 37.9 40.2 83.7 92.2 49.6 52.7 80.2 91.4

a = Questions asking if the holiday had a direct impact on well-being.

b = General well-being questions from the post-holiday survey (transformed into comparable scales).

Table options

The findings do suggest that holidays have an effect on key aspects of well-being. To what extent are these changes linked to the characteristics of the sample? The social tourists surveyed in this study must not have had a holiday for at least four years to meet the criteria for funding from the Family Holiday Association. Therefore it is not clear if these changes would be replicable amongst general tourists. The following section explores these issues.

Links Between Social Tourists and General Population

Social tourists differ from mainstream tourists because they are on low incomes and are affected by some specific issues and circumstances that mainstream tourists are far less likely to encounter (McCabe, 2009). For this reason they may have lower levels of well-being than the general population. The study first asked if the types of issues/circumstances that affected the disadvantaged people in the sample were correlated with their levels of well-being.

Table 4 shows very low levels of correlation between well-being and the issues/circumstances that affect respondents, with only mental health, unemployment and stress being statistically significant. For example, mental health issues can be correlated with the SWLS measures, the QOL life domains and resilience and self-esteem in that respondent’s not suffering mental health issues are likely to have higher levels of satisfaction in these items. This is perhaps not surprising as there is a great deal of evidence concerning the relationships between poor mental health and low levels of well-being. What is surprising is the non-significant correlation with positive and negative affect, as previous studies noted a strong link between emotional well-being and mental health (Keyes, 2006 and Van Lente et al., 2012).

Table 4.

Correlation of Issues and Circumstances and Measures of Well-Being

Issues/Circumstances SWLS British Household Panel Survey Positive Affect Negative Affect Resilience and Self-esteem Relationships
Gender −.036 .010 .053 .054 .047 −.127
Missing out −.054 −.137 .017 .038 −.060 .070
Relationship difficulties .048 −.017 .038 −.071 .026 −.054
Stress −.047 −.231 −.021 .013 −.057 0.24
Mental health .212 .199 .104 −.173 .188 −.058
Unemployment −.057 −.055 .198 .238 −.251 .105
Debt .007 .169 .076 −.018 .051 −.051
Physical health .063 .155 .114 −.110 .128 .046
Special needs −134 −.175 .051 −.160 .030 0.69

Correlation is significant.

Table options

Furthermore, for those answering ‘yes’ to being unemployed, there is a low but significant correlation with positive and negative affect and resilience and self-esteem. These correlations indicate that being employed increases positive affect and reduces negative affect, and that people who are unemployed are more likely to have lower levels of resilience and self-esteem, replicating previous findings linking unemployment to lower levels of well-being (Helliwell, Layard, & Sachs, 2012). A noteworthy point is that debt had no effect on well-being in this sample, whereas a higher income is usually positively related to well-being. The Royal College of Psychiatrists (2010) noted people in debt are more likely to be suffering from depression and therefore are more likely to have lower levels of well-being. Dolnicar et al. (2012) also found that the domain ‘money’ is more important than the ‘vacations’ domain to a person’s QOL when respondents are under financial pressure.

The correlations indicate that the issues/circumstances affecting social tourists in their daily lives do not contribute significantly to their low levels of well-being. This can be investigated further by comparing national scores of well-being with those from the current study, presented in Table 5. For all aspects apart from satisfaction with family, the general population (UK) score was higher. There are notably large differences in key aspects including income, employment, social life and amount of leisure time. Interestingly, these are areas where statistically significant changes occurred in the pre and post well-being survey. One assertion is that the changes amongst social tourists are particularly important because of their lower levels of well-being.

Table 5.

A Comparison of the Mean Well-Being Scores of the General Population Compared to Social Tourists

Measure General population
Mean (standard deviation)
Social tourists
Positive affect 2.90 (0.82) 2.19 (0.98)
Negative affect 3.47(inv) (0.69) 2.85 (inv) (1.02)
Life domains
Health 5.14 (1.39) 4.48 (1.80)
Income 4.74 (1.37) 3.17 (1.65)
Accommodation 5.38 (1.29) 4.41 (1.93)
Family 5.38 (1.29) 5.76 (1.55)
Employment 6.18 (1.18) 2.10 (2.14)
Social life 5.08 (1.38) 2.90 (1.96)
Amount of leisure time 4.99 (1.33) 2.76 (1.69)
Way spend leisure time 4.48 (1.48) 3.13 (1.95)
Resilience and self-esteem
Positive 3.85 (0.81) 3.14 (1.35)
Failure 3.73 (1.07) 3.16 (1.29)
Optimism 3.67 (0.94) 3.13 (1.37)
Resilience 3.29 (1.05) 2.82 (1.38)
Family time enjoyable 5.10 (5.10) 5.61 (1.30)
Family time stressful 4.17 (1.58) 2.85 (1.39)

Source: New Economics Foundation (nef). (2009) and Peasgood (2007).

Table options

No recent studies apply the SWLS on the whole population but there are a number of studies that have on different groups in society. The SWLS scale was used in a previous study with general tourists (Gilbert & Abdullah, 2004), which reported a post trip total mean score of 31.778 (Extremely satisfied), which is a large difference from the score of the present sample of social tourists of 20.148 (neutral). SWLS was also tested recently with different vulnerable groups in society. Biswar-Diener and Diener (2006) measured SWLS in homeless people from Calcutta (SWLS 22.20), California (17.277) and Oregon (14.12). The groups from California and Oregon had lower levels of SWLS compared to respondents from our survey, attesting to the severity of issues facing them. Another recent study (Athay, 2012) measured SWLS with caregivers of clinically-referred young people. The SWLS mean score was 4.41, which is slightly higher than the mean score of social tourists (4.02), confirming that social tourists have lower levels of well-being than other vulnerable groups in society.

Whilst there are generally low correlations between social tourists’ personal circumstances and their levels of SWB, social tourists have strikingly lower levels than the general population. Since social tourists often suffer from social exclusion in terms of employment, housing, access to services and other aspects of objective well-being, it seems there is a clear link between objective and subjective factors, as identified earlier.


Recent research has identified a need for further research to understand the contribution of tourism experiences to SWB, and QOL. However, there is a lack of conceptual clarity concerning SWB and related concepts and the imbrications between them (Galloway, 2005 and Genç, 2012). Simultaneously, there is much conceptual development in the academic field and diverse empirical evidence across a range of contexts in tourism. Well-being is emerging as a key goal for policy in the UK context (Office for National Statistics, 2011) and there is an urgent need for further research. This study sought to explore SWB in a social tourism context, to show how holidays for disadvantaged groups produced improvements in aspects of well-being.

The study found there are demonstrable links between holiday taking and improvements in SWB levels amongst social tourists, confirming recent studies that have found that tourism contributes to improvements in QOL (Dolnicar et al., 2012). The relative strength of the impact is mixed however. Significant changes were found in the aggregated measures of QOL domains and in satisfaction with life (SWLS) but not in relation to emotional well-being (positive/negative affect). Significant improvements were recorded in some aspects around positive functioning/social well-being, which suggest improvements associated with eudaemonic aspects of SWB. These aspects have been neglected in previous studies of SWB in tourism and highlight the need for further research in different contexts of tourism activity.

These findings suggest that holidays offer more value than simply short-term, hedonic experiences, but can contribute to longer-term broader aspects of life satisfaction and positive functioning. Respondents attributed high levels of impact particularly in relation to happiness and optimism, family life and relationships. However, changes in affect balance and optimism may be short-lived for social tourists whose daily life circumstances remain challenging upon return. This would support previous findings on limits to changes in affect balance after vacations (Nawijn et al., 2010), and that have found that health and well-being states return to previous levels quickly upon return to work after a vacation (De Bloom et al., 2012).

However, the significant improvements in family life and relationships attributed to the holiday, reflects similar changes in the general well-being survey between the two points in time. The findings add further support to previous studies that noted the effects of a holiday on individuals’ subjective well-being, although there is a need for further testing and analysis. Areas of SWB that are linked to personal goals (psychological resources and social well-being) yielded some significant improvements, particularly relationships and resilience demonstrating tourism’s potential contribution to the social and developmental aspects of SWB, rather than satisfaction with different domains of life quality. Longitudinal studies that employ complementary methods would be useful to extend and confirm this analysis.

The study highlighted a strong link between changes in well-being states and holiday participation amongst low-income groups. This has implications for management practice as well as for policy around social tourism. Previous research has found benefits accruing to social tourists when supported with a holiday break (McCabe, 2009 and Minnaert et al., 2009), yet it has been difficult to link benefits to well-being measures in the past. This methodology highlights that it is possible to show links between improvements attributed to the holiday and general measures of well-being. The comparability of the data was important to demonstrate that social tourists have significantly lower than average well-being scores, and that social policy in the UK could take account of the potential for social tourism to lead to improvements in different areas of SWB.

The research provides evidence that SWB can be measured in a tourism context and holidays do have an effect on well-being. Measures of SWB are currently being developed (Office for National Statistics, 2011). Tourism participation should be included in debates about measures of national well-being. SWB provides an integrative concept that complements QOL assessments, but which can incorporate global assessments of life satisfaction, emotional and social well-being and positive functioning associated with eudaemonic concepts of well-being. These are areas that appear to have significant utility for understanding the contribution of tourism to happiness.

Tourism offers the potential to experience different places and cultures and to broaden horizons, and as such its contribution to positive functioning should to be recognised, and further conceptual development undertaken to explore these issues. However the infinite variety of potential tourism experiences and individual and social circumstances that motivate and determine tourism outcomes necessitates a note of caution. The limited time effects of benefits and potential increases in stress prior to holidays have already been raised as issues for further research (De Bloom et al., 2012). Amongst social tourism practitioners, it is recognised that not all disadvantaged people will benefit equally from a holiday due to individual psychological and social circumstances. Further research is needed on how a holiday can optimize well-being outcomes, and on the psychological and environmental conditions that might affect them.

Instinctively it is reasonable to assume that holidays are likely to contribute significantly to feelings of well-being, since they represent a key area of contemporary voluntary consumer activity. Holidaymaking is an established aspect of socio-cultural life in which individuals invest a great deal of time and money. Holidays are times where people can enjoy quality time amongst families and friends and times/activities undertaken are often linked to personal growth and fulfilment. Therefore tourism has the potential to link to key aspects that lead to subjective well-being particularly the developmental aspects of self which contribute to eudaemonia. This study calls for further research into these wider aspects of SWB. For social tourists, who are social excluded from participation in tourism without financial support, SWB effects may be heightened or perhaps expected outcomes lower than for general tourists. Comparative studies could illuminate the lacunae of knowledge on tourism’s contribution to SWB across a wide range of contexts further to understand how different types of tourism contribute to different aspects of well-being.