For the past 40 years, social tourism has struggled for recognition in the UK. What now?

While on a family break earlier this year, my wife, daughter and I were strolling along a Majorcan beach, its thin strip of white sand framed by pine trees, and we delighted in soaking up the utter idyll of it all.  It reminded me of how lucky we are to be able to enjoy the benefits of a break away from home.

Of course, working at the Family Holiday Association makes you especially aware of the importance of holidays.

But too many families – 2.2 million at the last count –  don’t have the wherewithal to experience even a simple few days away from home far less a holiday on a Mediterranean island. Or, put another way, every year some 5 million children are denied the opportunity to walk on a beach and feel the sand between their toes.

© Copyright Michael Powell. 17 Cow Lane, Tealby, Lincs. LN8 3YB. 01673 838040.

The implications of this for the families and children concerned and wider society have rarely registered on anyone’s policy agenda.  And yet considerable research confirms that time away from the stresses and strains of everyday life can help to build happier, stronger families. The charity has always understood that its work in helping thousands of families each year, could never, on its own, be enough to meet the need.

Holidays: the social need.

It was almost exactly 40 years ago, that a report, jointly commissioned by the English Tourist Board and the Trades Union Congress, raised the need for this lack of access to be taken seriously.  The report stated that “social tourism”, offering socially disadvantaged people the possibility of taking holidays and enjoying recreational activities at low cost, was one way of addressing this inequality.

“In view of the essential role of holidays, social tourism should be recognised as an important part of a general social responsibility to all of the disadvantaged groups which have been considered in this report.”

The report was promptly forgotten about. Continue reading