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Europe thinking about social tourism

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Will the state once again help pay for vacations as was common practice before 1989? Back then, the government did this through cultural and social services funds, from which employers could help cover the vacations of selected workers. Now a slightly modified concept is being discussed at the European Commission. The idea is referred to as “social tourism” or “project Calypso”.

The project is now in the phase of gathering information from countries that are already doing or have done something similar, EC representative Francesco Ianniello said at a conference on the tourism industry that was held in Prague 10-11 June. In France, for instance, employers give out holiday cheques. The Spanish government is sending a million seniors on vacation. Financial support for holidays would go to the disadvantaged. “It would go to low-earning families, young people, people with disabilities and seniors,” said Zdenka Petrů, of the tourism department at the University of Economics, Prague.

Helping fund the travel of people from various social classes, this would extend the tourist season and increase revenues and maintain jobs in the holiday industry. Another aim of the program is to boost tourism in poorer regions. The project is mainly supported by southern European states such as Italy and Spain, as well as France. Great Britain, Germany and the northern states mostly oppose the project.

“The university in Alicante in Catalonia even calculated that for every euro put in, the Spanish government would get back 28 eurocents,” Petrů said. This would be thanks to the state’s ability to collect more taxes or to the lower healthcare costs resulting from a healthier population.

The money would come from the operational programmes of the European social fund. It’s not clear yet how this money would be drawn or who would be eligible to receive funding. According to Ianniello, there’s still a long road before the programme can come into effect.

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