Leaving the Family Holiday Association

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The Family Holiday Association’s chief executive, John McDonald, has announced that after 17 years in post he will be leaving the charity at the end of December.

Philippa Harris, the charity’s chair of trustees, said “John has been central to the success of the charity.  Not only have we continued to significantly increase the numbers of families supported, the charity has built an impressive range of partnerships with national and international organisations and has become an acknowledged centre of expertise in the field of social tourism.  He leaves with our thanks and very best wishes for the future.”

John McDonald, who joined the charity in 2001 after spells with Oxfam, ORBIS International and the Brain & Spine Foundation, said “It has been a privilege to be part of the team that has supported tens of thousands of families to reap the benefits provided by a short break away from home.

181018Joan at home (97)Cropped“One of my last actions has been to visit Joan Laurance. Joan and her late husband Pat established the charity 43 years ago in the back bedroom of their home in Hampstead Garden Suburb in London.

“Now 97 years old , and despite being very frail, Joan is still a strong advocate for our work with families. Continue reading

Prime Minister highlights the importance of holidays in key speech

During her key speech to the Conservative Party’s annual conference yesterday (3rd October 2018) Prime Minister Theresa May spoke about in her party’s desire to improve the lot of hard-working families. She wanted to help people to be able to enjoy the necessities of life and one of those was to experience “the joy and precious memories that a week’s holiday with the family brings”.

Naturally this chimes with the main objective of our charity’s work and, in particular, the current research we have commissioned from Nottingham Trent University that looks at the impact a break away from home can have on the lives of ordinary working families.

We will be writing to the policy unit at No 10 to offer a briefing on our research and we will raise the work and Mrs May’s speech at our upcoming meeting, scheduled for later in the month, with Michael Ellis MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Arts, Heritage and Tourism.

Holidays are not just a luxury but a necessity particularly if your family is struggling to pay for life’s essentials.


Recognising a need is only the first step; responding to that need is what delivers the benefit.


180821CaseStudyPhotoaaaA simple break at the British seaside brought this moving testimony from a mother and young daughter.

I experienced serious domestic assault 7 years ago by my partner which left me with life changing injuries. I almost died. The traumatic experience deeply affected me and my daughter.  My partner was imprisoned for the assault and I was anxious about his release. I felt alone with no support. To make matters worse, my daughter’s grandparents also passed away. My daughter was bullied at school and had to attend therapy, during which I also was informed that she has sensory needs on the spectrum of autism. Continue reading

ScotSpirit, a campaign to give struggling families in Scotland a break.

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A ScotSpirit family enjoying Glasgow Science Centre

For me a holiday truly is a human right, not a privilege. We all know how it feels: the chance to unwind, relax, recharge, spend quality time with our loved ones away from the stresses and strains of life. It helps us cope, it helps us feel human.

Sadly, even a short break isn’t on the cards for many families. 1 in 3 families in the UK aren’t able to get a break and in Scotland alone, over 250,000 children live in relative poverty. For many of them, there’s no opportunity to share stories with friends of where they went, no opportunity to experience new places and learn new things together as a family.

That’s why the ScotSpirit Breaks are so important and why I’m so proud of their success. In just its second year, the initiative has enabled (and that really is the operative word, I think) 420 families in Scotland – that’s over 1,600 people, most of them children – to enjoy a short break or day out in their own country, an increase of over 60% on last year.

The ScotSpirit initiative is a partnership between VisitScotland and ourselves, The Family Holiday Association, and its success has been made possible thanks to the generous spirit of businesses within the Scottish tourism industry, which have kindly provided the accommodation, transport and visitor experiences for these families to enjoy.

Seeing the coverage on the BBC, in the Daily Record and other media outlets, I am reminded of how powerful collaboration can be in making positive change.

Watch the Wednesday 20th December 2017 BBC Reporting Scotland news item –

(Click images for links)






Two thirds of the families had never had a break together before, which for many of us will be really quite shocking. Yet it’s the reality for so many struggling families in Scotland. It is heartening to see the impact that these breaks are having: they impact positively on wellbeing by reducing stress, increasing confidence and the ability to cope with challenging life circumstances, while at the same time providing a chance for families to spend quality time together away from home and develop lasting happy memories. Continue reading

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

Scottish Government supports social tourism

170707FionaHyslop2Click picture to view video clip

Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop congratulated the ScotSpirit partnership work of VisitScotland and the Family Holiday Association during her keynote speech to the Tourism Society’s Symposium in Edinburgh last month.

ScotSpirit was VisitScotland’s £-multi-million international marketing programme that also contained an innovative social tourism programme that supported struggling Scottish families access hundreds of short breaks and day trips donated by over 30 tourism industry partners.

Click here to view clip of Fiona Hyslop’s speech.

The programme is being repeated this year with increased numbers of partners and aims to help even more families. Continue reading

Social tourism as part of unemployment policies?

Kostas and John McDonald, Director, Family Holiday Association

Konstantinos Kakoudakis’s academic paper Social tourism and self-efficacy has just been published by respected journal Annals of Tourism Research.

Working with Prof Scott McCabe at Nottingham University, Kostas undertook research with families we support where parent/s were long term unemployed. His research showed that our breaks created the conditions for people that helped them look for work (or other related activities) once they got back home. Just published in a respected tourism journal it helps to build the case for the tangible benefits of a break. Have also attached a report that he produced summarising his research nicely.

The research shows that breaks give parents the space to think about things away from their day to day environments and the act of preparing, managing and going on the break gives them the belief (self-efficacy) that they are able to achieve things in other areas of their lives.

Our charity is always happy to encourage and facilitate research into the benefits of social tourism. We do our best to maintain a database of all English-language research into this area here on the Holidays Matters website.

Research Highlights

Continue reading

“A Million Smiles” campaign reaches £1m target

Image5Two years ago TUI UK & Ireland set themselves a target to raise £1m for the Family Holiday Association. After 24 months of countless marathon runs, on board coin collections, cake sales and sky dives they did it!

To mark the occasion, a short video has been put together and is being distributed throughout the company. You can view it here –


Continue reading