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Is tourism conducive to residents’ social trust? Evidence form large-scale social surveys

Marianna Strzelecka (Department of Organisation and Entrepreneurship, Linneuniversitet Ekonomihogskolan, Kalmar, Sweden)
Adam Okulicz-Kozaryn (Rutgers University Camden, Camden, New Jersey, USA)

Tourism Review

ISSN: 1660-5373

Article publication date: 29 January 2018

Issue publication date: 15 February 2018




This paper aims to understand the character of the relationship between tourism growth and residents’ social trust.


The study uses large-scale data to model the effect of tourism on generalized trust attitudes Among advantages to analyzing data from large-scale social surveys, extensive content and representative coverage of the population are probably the most appealing. The broad coverage of the population of the large-scale social surveys allows for a broader generalization of the study results as well as comparison of areas with very different tourist activity.


This study offers two key findings. First, the effect of tourist arrivals (as per capita) on social trust attitudes is stronger in poorer regions than in wealthier regions. Second, only domestic tourism positively affects trust.

Research limitations/implications

This study delivered a straightforward analysis of large data to be able to generalize findings and make a significant theoretical contribution to tourism discipline. This goal was pursued at the expense of complex or in-depth explanation of the observed phenomenon.

Practical implications

Findings from this study indicate that there are at least two crucial criteria for tourism to be able to strengthen residents’ social trust. First, domestic tourism should be encouraged in destination regions in their early development stages and in more homogeneous regions. Perhaps, focus on domestic tourists before internationalization of a tourism product is the most effective way to promote tourism development that is supported by local residents. Second, tourism is likely to have stronger positive effect on social trust in poorer regions. Thus, tourism policy makers should take into consideration the actual economic need for tourism. Residents in wealthier regions may show less support for tourism simply because they don’t need it and they have no economic incentives to be involved. In fact, tourism in wealthier regions is likely to diminish residents’ social trust, and thus it disrupts local social and political processes that rely on high social trust.


Social trust is considered an important measure of social cohesion and it enables modern societies to thrive. Social trust has not been problematized in the context of contemporary tourism growth. This is the first study that uses large data social survey to model the effect of tourism on social trust in European destination regions.



Strzelecka, M. and Okulicz-Kozaryn, A. (2018), "Is tourism conducive to residents’ social trust? Evidence form large-scale social surveys", Tourism Review, Vol. 73 No. 1, pp. 1-27.



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