News Release

One last trip: when tourism embraces the terminally ill

This is a hidden community for whom tourism isn't merely a recreation, it could be a need; but they require the right support--new study shows

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Incheon National University

When Tourism Embraces the Terminally Ill

image: Travel helps terminally ill cancer patients create unforgettable memories with their families. view more 

Credit: Jude Beck on Unsplash

Since the latter half of the 20th century, vacationing has grown increasingly synonymous with tourism. This has been attributed to disposable incomes rising for many people, budget commercial airlines taking to the sky, and multitudes of tour facilitators entering the market, among other things. Now, economies of entire countries depend on tourism. To quote the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO): "Today, the business volume of tourism equals or even surpasses that of oil exports, food products, or automobiles."

Yet, there have been entire communities of people who do not have the luxury to partake in tourism--for monetary, psychological, cultural, or bureaucratic constraints. Social tourism provides these communities the opportunity to fulfill their vacation desires. But according to Professor Jin Young Chung from Incheon National University, Korea, not all such disadvantaged communities are able to make the most of social tourism. Talking about his paper recently published in the Annals of Tourism Research (made available online on 31 October 2019 and offline in the September 2020 issue), he says: "There exists a hidden population who could benefit from social tourism but tend not to participate at all."

Prof Chung is referring to families in which a parent is battling cancer and is terminally ill. Often buried under brutal treatment regimens, the burden of bills, and low morale, these families cannot see vacation as a priority. However, Prof Chung's research tells us that they need a vacation.

Prof Chung and his colleague Prof Steven Simpson of the University of Wisconsin analyzed notes written by approximately 400 such families after they had benefitted from a social tourism program run by a non-profit charitable organization in the US.

"I don't think any of us knew how much we needed a break from all the doctor's appointments..." one family said. " of the first thoughts I got was how do I spend as much time as I can with my kids making good memories to last them a lifetime?" a mother had written. Because of this social tourism program, the families had recognized their latent tourism need.

"The most important memory was seeing my daughter's eyes light up and the sound of her laughter," wrote another parent. The trip had gotten families to realize that there were precious benefits to this vacation. Not only did it take them away from the worries of daily life and treatment, it brought them closer and left positive mental impressions on the children.

Several notes also made it clear that these realizations would not have come to fruition if their medical or social points of contact, such as nurses and social workers, had not nudged them to consider the social tourism program. "Public health professionals and health clinics should consider educating oncologists and social workers on the importance of travel and leisure programs for families with a terminally ill cancer parent, where the parent is preparing to leave their children behind and whose families are preparing to live life without them," Prof Chung reiterates.

Researchers of tourism mobility and organizations such as the UNWTO care about making tourism sustainable and accessible for all. But this analysis by Profs Chung and Simpson brings to the fore the fact that hidden communities exist who remain excluded from such focus. It is time research is done to unearth them and understand their needs, so tourism can one day truly become accessible for all.



Authors: Jin Young Chung, Steven Simpson
Title of original paper: Social tourism for families with a terminally ill parent
Journal: Annals of Tourism Research
DOI: 10.1016/j.annals.2019.102813
Affiliations: School of International Trade and Business, Incheon National University, Incheon, South Korea

About Incheon National University

Incheon National University (INU) is a comprehensive, student-focused university. It was founded in 1979 and given university status in 1988. One of the largest universities in South Korea, it houses nearly 14,000 students and 500 faculty members. In 2010, INU merged with Incheon City College to expand capacity and open more curricula. With its commitment to academic excellence and an unrelenting devotion to innovative research, INU offers its students real-world internship experiences. INU not only focuses on studying and learning but also strives to provide a supportive environment for students to follow their passion, grow, and, as their slogan says, be INspired. Website:

About Professor Jin Young Chung from Incheon National University, Korea

Dr Jin Young Chung is an Associate Professor of Tourism at Incheon National University (INU), Korea. Before coming to INU, he was an Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, USA. His interests lie in undertaking research projects on international tourism and he aims to help distribute tourism benefits fairly across societies. He is the author of over 35 research papers in the field of tourism. The current paper deals with a topic that is personal and close to his heart.

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