In April, 2010, the European Union (EU) declared that travel and tourism is a basic human right and introduced a program whereby the EU will subsidize vacations for youth, the elderly, the disabled and for those who are poor.
For those who qualify, the EU will pay for up to 30% of travel costs in order to allow people to travel to places they might not otherwise visit. Those from northern countries will be encouraged to go south and vice versa.
Declaring travel a basic right may seem a little outlandish and extreme, but it creates an interesting philosophical question. Should everyone be able to travel?
Anyone who has hit the road or boarded a plane in search of adventure and exploration of the world can tell you that the benefits of travel are many. There are the intangible benefits of increased global awareness, emotional growth and ultimately intellectual growth. Vacationing also has several physical benefits including a reduction in stress which in turn lowers blood pressure and helps you live longer. Given these benefits, it would seem a logical conclusion that everyone should be able to take a break.
Unfortunately, although there are many things that perhaps should be a basic, indelible right, taking a vacation is not one of them. Even though travel is extremely important, particularly for the young, it is ultimately a luxury. No matter your style of travel, be it budget or ultra-luxury, the expense is discretionary and usually the result of hard work.
While subsidizing vacations may be somewhat dubious, it is the economic issues that lay at the heart of this debate. The EU isn’t paying for entire holidays, rather they are offering some assistance to those who wish to take advantage of the program. For inclusion in the program, there are bound to be several conditions, including eligible locations and black-out dates. That means that the EU will be able to target areas that need additional vacationers during their low season.
It is a brilliant idea really. The EU offers some vouchers to pensioners and students, who in turn spend money on airline tickets, trains, hotels, food, and so on in areas of Europe that normally don’t get a lot of tourists and at times of the year when they most need them. This isn’t speculation either, the EU plan is based on a Spanish program that was tremendously successful. Spain calculated that for every €1 it spent in subsidies, €1.6 was gained for its resorts.
What does this say about Western society though? While it is obvious that the EU plan is a poorly disguised stimulus plan, it is still asserting the claim that vacationing is on par with protecting citizens from torture and forced labor.
Since I don’t want to devolve into a discussion of political philosophy, I’ll stop-but I want to know your thoughts. Is traveling a basic right and should governments help their citizens enjoy this right?