The purpose of this paper is to address the important role that social economy can play in improving the sustainability, inclusion and diversity of the tourism sector in Europe and beyond. At the same time, it wishes to explore how tourism and the social economy together can deliver collaborative, sustainable and regenerative local development.

The paper proposes an overview of the latest EU policy developments and strategies on both the social economy and tourism and a collection of several best practices from different European countries in the fields of rural communities, community-based enterprises, cooperatives in action, cultural heritage, digital platforms, inclusion and diversity. The best practices presented in this paper show the benefits of tourism when developed in a social economy perspective.

Social economy and tourism are a major driver of social, environmental and economic change. Nowadays, the sectors face some major challenges that prevent them from further scaling up. In parallel, new priorities, such as new business models embracing digitalisation and sustainability, could be further developed.

Considering the lack of research on the connections between these two fields, and the attention that both have received lately from both national and European institutions, this paper aims to take a first look at these interconnections and undertake an initial mapping exercise.

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