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African Journal for Physical, Health Education, Recreation and Dance

(AJPHERD) December 2015 (Supplement 1), pp. 1-12.

Recounting social tourism development in South Africa

Department of Tourism, School of Tourism and Hospitality, University of Johannesburg,
Johannesburg, South Africa. E-mail:

Notwithstanding tourism in South Africa being declared a priority sector alongside mining and
agriculture, the South African governments concern with the sustainability of the domestic
tourism market stems from a significant lack of travel culture among the majority of the population.
This study takes an initial look at the development of social tourism in South Africa both
historically and as an unconventional way of addressing some of South Africas domestic tourism
gaps with particular emphasis on encouraging youth participation in social tourism. Specifically,
the report recounts evidence of social tourism development in South Africa along three distinct
historical and political periods namely during the independence period of 1910-1948, in the period
of apartheid between 1948 and 1994 and in the post 1994 democratic era. In particular the paper
presents the workings of the Star Seaside Fund, a charity organisation that has been developing
social tourism in South Africa since 1910. In-depth interviews with staff of the charity organisation
revealed surprising facts that the Star Seaside Fund was taking underprivileged black children to
the seaside during the apartheid era when travel of the majority of its black citizens was extremely
restricted and heavily regulated. Furthermore, in-depth interviews with two participants confirmed
the long-lasting social and psychological benefits of social tourism travel to the participating youth.
Therefore this study represents a contribution to the further enrichment of social tourism discourse
in South Africa as well as a better understanding of its current nature.
Keywords: Social tourism, youth travel, domestic tourism, Star Seaside Fund, South Africa.
How to cite this article:
Adinolfi, M.C. & Ivanovic, M. (2015). Recounting social tourism development in South Africa.
African Journal for Physical, Health Education, Recreation and Dance, Supplement 1
(December), 1-12.

The earliest definition of social tourism is said to be that by Hunziker (1951: 1),
cited in Minnaert, Maitland and Miller (2011: 404), where it is defined as the
relationships and phenomena in the field of tourism resulting from participation in
travel by economically weak or otherwise disadvantaged elements in society.
This definition of social tourism is however not ubiquitous as elements of
educational links (Minnaert, 2012), and other variations of the definition
(McCabe, 2014; Minnaert, 2012; Minnaert, Maitland & Miller, 2011; Minnaert,
Maitland & Miller, 2006) are present in the literature. Social tourism, in the
European context, has traditionally been seen as intended for ageing,
disadvantaged and disabled segments of the population. This form of tourism has
been well established on the European continent since the mid-Victorian Era

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(McCabe, 2014) and has been adapted to suit national contexts throughout the
continent over time. Social tourism in the European context is aimed at addressing
the need for social security and public welfare such as in the Big Society concept
in the United Kingdom where local communities, charities and volunteering
organisations are engaged to help the state provide such services (Minnaert,
Maitland & Miller, 2011). Contrary to developed countries, developing countries
perceive the benefits of social tourism as being supportive of the broader socioeconomic role of tourism such as generating foreign exchange, providing
employment opportunities (especially around decent work), promoting peace and
stability, and most importantly addressing poverty alleviation challenges
(Rogerson, 2014; Rogerson, 2015). Social tourism has a long tradition and
exceptional organisation on the Latin American continent, especially in Brazil,
Argentina and Mexico. In the South African context, however, there is no distinct
definition of social tourism available.
Since the South African first democratic elections in 1994, tourism has been
identified as a priority sector alongside mining and agriculture because of the
substantial economic benefits it brings to the countrys economy. The tourism
sector in the form of social tourism is also singled out by the National Department
of Tourism (NDT, 2012a) as an important factor in aiding positive social benefits
for its people. It was briefly mentioned amongst the strategic gaps in the National
Tourism Sector Strategy (NDT, 2012a), particularly within domestic tourism
(NDT, 2012b), later followed by a Social Tourism Workshop hosted by the NDT
(NDT, 2013: 2) in August 2013. The workshop highlighted that social tourism can
benefit domestic tourism and that it should be promoted through existing
government programmes. Despite this recognition, there has been little effort into
establishing a more formal social tourism sector for the country and it seems that
the social tourism agenda has since been missing from the government priority
In view of the dynamic nature of social tourism, this paper recounts surprising
historical evidence of uninterrupted development of social tourism in South Africa
for the past century and how it can be used more effectively in conjunction with
Visiting Friends and Relatives (VFR) travel in growing South African domestic
This study adopts an exploratory research design which is suitable when,
according to Babbie and Mouton (2015), the subject of study is relatively new and
the research is conducted to provide basic familiarity with the topic. Since the
phenomenon of social tourism development is not new to South African tourism
discourse, the paper implements a qualitative exploratory research design with the
main purpose of better understanding the evolution of social tourism development

Recounting social tourism development 3

in South Africa and further determining possible priorities for future research
related to the nature of socio-economic and psychological benefits of social
tourism participation in strengthening domestic tourism in South Africa. The study
adopts two research methods outlined by Selltiz, Jahoda, Deutsch and Cook (1965)
pertinent to exploratory design, namely a review of related literature and a survey
of the people who have had practical experience of the problem or phenomenon.
Consequently the paper presents an overview of the historical records on social
tourism found in South African historical archives as well as the content analysis
of the first two completed in-depth interviews with participants of the Star Seaside
Fund trips to the seaside undertaken in the 1980s. A snowball sampling method is
used in a selection of the two participants who were recommended by the staff of
the Star Seaside Fund. Both interviews were conducted telephonically and the
answers were captured during the interviews. The content analysis revealed the
main themes related to the benefits of participation in social tourism travel.
Methodologically the paper involves the analysis of three sets of sources. The first
set consists of secondary sources derived from South African archives. The second
set consists of primary sources collected through participant interviews. Interviews
were analysed for similarities in experiences and to identify key aspects which
highlighted the value that such a trip has brought to the participant. The third set
is derived from secondary sources, which cross-examine the main theoretical
concepts underpinning social tourism thus providing a theoretical framework for
the study.
The paper is structured in two sections. The first section provides a detailed
account of three historical periods in social tourism development in South Africa,
namely during the independence period of 1910-1948, in the period of apartheid
between 1948 and 1994 and in the post-1994 democratic era. More specifically,
new facts are revealed regarding the main reasons for participation in social
tourism and criteria used in selecting children in each period. The second section
presents a short summary of in-depth interviews with two participants of the trips
during the 1980s who recount the long-term benefits of social tourism
Evidence of social tourism in South Africa
Despite no real presence in recent national planning efforts, social tourism has
been in existence in South Africa for over a century. In particular the Star Seaside
Fund dating back to 1910 and the Bantu Childrens Holiday Fund of 1937 will be
discussed as exemplary models of social tourism developmental efforts for South
African poor children. Based on historical archives and interviews with the Star
Seaside Fund and selected participants, three distinct eras of social tourism in
South Africa can be outlined: 1910-1948, 1948-1994 and post 1994.

4 Adinolfi and Ivanovic

1910-1948 Independence and the era of social welfare
Social tourism in South Africa can be traced back to 1910 when the Star Seaside
Fund, according to the funds staff, was established by a Scottish business man,
Arthur Playfair. He had travelled to the seaside city of Durban on South Africas
east coast where he noticed the enjoyment people and families had at the beach.
On his return to Johannesburg, he wished to give street children the opportunity to
travel to the sea, so he began to approach companies to raise funds for the trips. In
the early days, the trips took 120 children on a monthly basis between January and
November 1910 for 14 days. The information pertaining to the workings of the
Star Seaside Fund in the first decades of its establishment are for the most part
derived from sources other than the Fund itself.
The year 1910 was also significant in that South Africa became a Union and racial
segregation became further emphasised. This period was also characterised by a
growing population in Johannesburg in the 1920s and 1930s in search of
employment. Despite a small educated black professional class, life in the
townships was difficult where most people were poor (Meintjies, 1998:66). With
concerns for the living conditions of people in the townships, a number of welfare
organisations were formed in the late 1930s. These organisations were largely lead
by middle-class black women, including Charlotte Maxeke and Maddie HallXuma, wife of Dr A.B. Xuma, the president of the African National Congress
(ANC) at the time (Meintjies, 1998: 66). There is also evidence of white liberal
women involved in such efforts including Margaret Ballinger, who established the
Association of European and African Women which later established the Bantu
Childrens Holiday Fund (Meintjies, 1998: 66).
In 1935 the Joint Committee on European and African Women was inaugurated.
The committee was tasked with the improvement of the living conditions of black
women and children in the Witwatersrand area, with a specific focus on improved
medical care, medical recovery accommodation, housing, transport and general
care for black children and women in Johannesburg. A major concern of the
committee was the state of ill-health of black children living in the locations
(township areas).
In their first report of 1937 the committee provided an account of the work done
by the Star Seaside Fund. Based on this report it is assumed that the Star Seaside
Fund had only been taking white children to the sea for medical purposes which
further inspired the committee to create a similar fund aimed at convalescing black
children who could not otherwise afford a trip to the sea. The Joint Committee of
European and African Women and Bantu Childrens Holiday Fund or the Bantu
Childrens Holiday Fund (BCHF) was established in 1937 which worked under
the guidance of the Childrens Aid Society. The Star Seaside Fund had also had
influence beyond the black population into the Cape Coloured Community guiding

Recounting social tourism development 5

the formation of the Cape Coloured Holiday Fund together with the Childrens
Aid Society, churches and other societies with an interest in the welfare of the
coloured community (Cape Coloured Holiday Fund, 1934).
The BCHF also appeared in minutes of meetings of the Johannesburg Joint
Council of Europeans and Africans Association of European and African Women
(1939) where their efforts were acknowledged but it was emphasised that the need
for a convalescent home in Johannesburg was more urgent than the holidays to the
seaside. Nevertheless, the fund continued to operate.
This era of social tourism revealed a very distinct justification for taking children
to the sea which was heavily rooted in the medical benefits that the sea air and
water could bring to sick children. Criteria for the selection of children for the
BCHF was strictly based on a medical recommendation from a doctor who would
confirm that the respective child would benefit from such a holiday. The
underlying criteria however was highlighted as the home conditions of the child
(Association of European and African Women, 1941). The BCHF reported in their
second trip that the party returned very much in improved health and wildly
enthusiastic, illustrating the health benefits that such a trip could offer. The
provision of a well-balanced diet was emphasised which also contributed to
increased health benefits.
Interestingly, it was reported in the third trip of the BCHF (1937) that support for
the holiday trips from the mothers of the convalescent children was lacking due to
uncertainties on whether their children would drown in the sea or whether they
would ever return. However, after a year of operation the improvement in the
health of children returning from the trips resulted in doctors being inundated with
requests to send their children to the seaside from the mothers and families of such
Funding for both, the Star Seaside Fund and the Bantu Childrens Holiday Fund
was based on donations. The largest sums of financial donations for the BCHF
came from large mining corporations and other businesses such as The Rand
Mines Group, Anglo-American Corporation, and the New Consolidated Gold
Fields. Church organisations, collections by pupils from wealthy schools,
professionals such as doctors and professors, and the general public also made
financial contributions. Donations were acknowledged in the columns of The Star
newspaper which also served as a platform for publicity and calls for donations
despite the existence of their own seaside fund.
In their 1938 annual report, the BCHF outlined nonfinancial donations in the form
of food from a variety of food wholesalers and manufacturers including Huletts
Ltd. and Nestle (South Africa) Ltd. Funding earmarked for the BCHF also
appeared in the minutes of a meeting of the Executive Committee of the Non-

6 Adinolfi and Ivanovic

European Health Week held in 1939 where surplus funds as a result of fund raising
for an educative health week were allocated to the fund (Executive Committee of
the Non-European Health Week, 1939).
In the accounts of the first five trips of the BCHF (Joint Committee of European
and African Women and Bantu Childrens Holiday Fund, 1937; 1938), a
significant challenge was that of accommodating the children whilst at the seaside.
The home of two ladies in Imbumbulu (Umbumbulu) were used to accommodate
the children in the first three trips and was situated approximately 48km (30 miles
as reported by the committee) from Durban, making access to the sea limited
during the trip thus affecting the medical benefits that were derived from the sea.
In the fourth trip a mission school building closer to the sea was organised by a
local Superintendent in Umzumbi. The fifth trip saw the accommodation move to
a different mission school house. The availability of accommodation at the mission
school facilities meant that trips were restricted to traditional school holidays and
therefore also limited the number of trips that could be organised per year. It was
thus acknowledged that a need for a more permanent camp site would allow for
more trips to be taken throughout the year.
1948-1994 the apartheid era
In 1948, the National Party came into power which saw heavy legislation
formalising segregation in South Africa. Despite legislation such as the Group
Areas Act, No. 41 of 1950, the Pass Laws of 1952, and the migrant labour system,
which significantly reduced the mobility of the majority black population, the Star
Seaside Fund was taking black children to the seaside albeit separately from white
children. At this point, it is unclear whether the BCHF is in operation as there is
yet no record of when it seized to operate. It is thus assumed that the Star Seaside
Fund began taking black children to the seaside at this point, although it has not
been documented and more investigation is required.
During the apartheid era, black children were sent to a home in Umgababa on the
South Coast and white children were sent to a home on Playfair Road. A shift in
the criteria for selection of children is revealed in the participant interviews from
the Star Seaside Fund where the emphasis on the health benefits of children
travelling to the seaside was no longer a condition. Criteria for selection was rather
based on the performance of the selected children in their school work. Only the
best performers were given the chance to participate in the trip. It was only in 1989
that all races were integrated and where children were all housed in the same
facility. The home in Hibberdene used to be a lighthouse and was transformed into
a home for widows and children of World War II (WWII). Later (date unknown),
the Mercury Newspaper as part of Independent Newspapers, purchased the
property to be used as a holiday home for children.

Recounting social tourism development 7

Post 1994 the democratic era
The Star Seaside Fund continues to operate in the post-apartheid era of democracy
to this day. Again, a shift in the criteria for the selection of children is observed.
The emphasis now is on providing an opportunity to travel to the seaside for the
first time for poor children of all races within the Gauteng province. Children are
selected from underprivileged areas around Gauteng and typically come from
schools or orphanages in the area. The schools and orphanages work closely with
the fund to help select children who have very little to no prospect of ever going
to the sea.
The trips are all expenses paid and sponsored by corporates such as national food
retail chains like Spar. The fund is on occasion funded by people who leave behind
their estates to the fund as well as previous children who have gone on the trip
who now sponsor the cost of one or more children to go on the trip. When asked
whether the fund has been approached by any tourism authority, the response was
no. However, in the past the Natal Sharks Board in Umhlanga provided free
entrance to the children in order to learn about sharks as part of their activities.
The main purpose of the trip is a holiday and for the children to visit the sea. The
children are divided into groups and each group is allocated a team captain from
the children in the group, exposing them to teamwork and leadership skills.
According to the fund, children show remarkable improvement throughout the
trip. In contrast to the results reported by the BCHF whose emphasis was on
medical recuperation, the Star Seaside Fund seems to tap into the personal growth
benefits that travel can bring.
Exposure to travel through varied forms of transportation that these children would
not normally have the opportunity to experience is also evident in the trips. In
2011, a former low cost airline, Velvet Sky, and the Airports Company of South
Africa (ACSA) sponsored flights for 50 children to take the seaside trip (Tilsley,
2011). A former general manager of ACSA, Christopher Hlekane, explained in a
video published by Tilsley (2011) that the travellers of tomorrow are the
children who currently have no clue what air travel is all about. It is very
important to continue to bring them closer to the airports so as airports become
relevant in their life and never seen as this very elite institution. The exposure of
such travel experiences at a young age has long term effects for the domestic
tourists of the future in South Africa as these children become part of the working
economy and have the potential to participate in domestic tourism in the future.
The benefits of social tourism: The participants accounts
Social tourism with its recorded benefits of the ability to counter social (and
economic) exclusion (Minnaert, Maitland & Miller, 2006), its potential for

8 Adinolfi and Ivanovic

unplanned learning and behaviour change (Minnaert, 2012), being a shaper of
society and promoting economic growth (International Social Tourism
Organisation, 2011) can provide a significant avenue for growing the domestic
tourism market in South Africa particularly in providing travel opportunities for
those affected by social exclusion policies of the past.
Two participants who each took a trip in the 1980s during apartheid both recalled
fond memories of their trips where children had the opportunity to participate in
beach games, other sports activities as well as the religious component of the trip
where a religious class would be held often on a Sunday. Participant A now works
for the Independent Papers and Participant B is currently completing a doctorate.
The latter recalled how the trip made them love education in that they could see
how education can take you further and open up opportunities such as travelling.
It was conveyed how such an experience could very well have affected the
decisions they have made to get them to where they are today.
Participant B noted that the caretakers which were middle aged white men and
women were quite religious. Religious aspects were already present in their
schooling and thus continued in their seaside trip. However, there are other
activities which are provided for the children such as outdoor activities,
motivational talks, workshops on aspects of life such as life skills, decision
making, gaining self-control, peer pressure, and spiritual programmes (once in the
trip on a Sunday). These activities have been consistent over the years as both
participants recalled fond memories of these activities including the religious
Participant A noted the value of the trips as an opportunity to open their eyes, to
show them a world outside of their own. Both participants also described how
going on the trip has influenced them to take their own children on trips to expose
them to different environments for them to know that there is more to life then
what they are used to. They did however acknowledge that they are in a much
better position to do so then their parents were. Participant A also recalled how it
is not actually about the sea, that the trip made them appreciate that they were
given such an opportunity and feel valued. Participant B reported that when
children are young they just enjoy the moment and that it is only later in life where
the true value of such an experience can be understood. The value he referred to
was the importance of how a lack of being exposed to something outside your
usual environment can lead you to be less educated about the world.
Albeit a surprisingly long history of social tourism in South Africa exists, it still
remains invisible for the national policy framework as well as in the academic
discourse. The outcomes presented in this paper are the first results as part of an

Recounting social tourism development 9

ongoing study on social tourism in South Africa. The study is designed to trace
and interview the participants from each of the three distinguished historical
periods until the point of data saturation. The following findings are summarised
in Table 1 and further discussed:
Table 1: Summary of three distinct phases of social tourism.
1948-1994 The
Independence and apartheid era
the era of social
for Medical recovery
reasons supported
by a Doctor
Source of children Hospitals/Clinics
schools and
Bantu Childrens
Star Seaside Fund
Holiday Fund & Star
Seaside Fund
corporate and private
of corporate and private

Post 1994
democratic era


performance and
level of poverty
schools and
Star Seaside Fund

corporate and private

donations, deceased
estates left to the fund
Star Seaside Fund

Bantu Childrens
Star Seaside Fund
Black & coloured
Holiday Fund
children taken on
Star Seaside Fund
Star Seaside Fund
Star Seaside Fund
White children
taken on trips
Source: authors own findings based on interviews and literature review.

The first results of research in South African archives revealed three distinct
phases in social tourism development in South Africa:

The first phase (1910-1948) was dominated by the establishment of two

funds, the Star Seaside Fund in 1910 and the Bantu Childrens Holiday
Fund (BCHF) in 1937. Ill health was the main selection criteria for white
and black children participation in each fund respectively. Both funds were
sustained solely through corporate and private donations and were run by
volunteers. In terms of accommodation, the BCHF struggled in providing
a more permanent campsite.
The second phase (1948-1994) coincides with the establishment of
apartheid in South Africa. It comes as a surprise that despite strict
segregation laws the Star Seaside Fund was taking black and white
children to the coast but kept them separated until 1989. Also the selection
criteria changed from children with ill-health to best performers in schools
which was equally applied to black and white children. In this period the
Star Seaside Fund secured permanent accommodation for the children in
the home in Hibberdene.

10 Adinolfi and Ivanovic

In the third, post-1994 phase the performance in school remained the main
selection criteria but the focus mostly turned to poor schools and
orphanages of all races.

The results of two in-depth interviews revealed the long lasting, life changing
benefits of childrens participation in social tourism:

The children not only discovered that there is a different world outside the
townships but the trip also changed their outlook on life making them more
determined, focused and motivated to succeed.
The participants currently prioritise their familys travel domestically
which demonstrates that improving travel culture (NDT, 2012b; 2013)
among the domestic previously disadvantaged population is an important
long lasting benefit of social tourism.

It is observed from the archival evidence and the responses from participants that
there is a clear thread which emphasises poverty in each phase of social tourism
development, similar to that of other developing countries. Therefore an initial
look into the definition of social tourism in a South African context has to be
grounded by the role that social tourism has played in providing access to tourism
participation for the poor. However, the outcomes of ongoing research are
expected to reveal the full context in which social tourism is taking shape in South
Africa in particular its potential to enhance the current lack of culture of travel
which is critical in the development of domestic tourism (NDT, 2012b).
The long standing argument regarding the lack of the culture of travel in South
Africa which compromises domestic tourism growth in the future (Rogerson,
2014; 2015) is that it is directly linked to the prevalence of VFR travel in domestic
tourism in South Africa (NDT, 2012b). VFR travel dominated by black travellers
(Rogerson, 2015: 139) is attributed to the uneven geography of tourism in South
Africa as a result of racial segregation and particularly the migrant labour system
during apartheid (Rogerson, 2014). The phenomenon of VFR travel in South
Africa is prevalent among groups of poorer households from former Bantustans
as well as a majority of the marginalised population residing within or on fringe
of cities integrated into translocal contexts of living, (Steinbrink, 2010 cited in
Rogerson, 2015: 147).
The main recommendations arising from the findings presented in this paper are
that the VFR market has potential to participate in social tourism where the
associated social and psychological benefits can address the lack of travel culture
beyond the economic expectations of growing domestic tourism in South Africa.
The main contribution of this study to establishing social tourism discourse in
South Africa is that for the first time historical evidence of social tourism

Recounting social tourism development 11

development is presented and the three distinct historical phases are clearly
delineated. Furthermore, an unknown evidence of socio-economic and
psychological benefits of youth participation in social tourism started to emerge.
The new results are expected to further deepen our understanding of the exact
benefits of youth participation in social tourism in each historical period and the
differences thereof. Based on the evidence of long-lasting social and psychological
benefits of social tourism development in South Africa it is suggested that social
tourism represents an excellent fit in advancing the domestic tourism agenda
driven by VFR travel.
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