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.
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.”
Social tourism, as a term, is not well known in the UK and is even less understood.
But actually helping people access a break is a long-established practice here; indeed, a recent on-line social tourism survey carried out by the University of Nottingham and the University of Exeter of the not-for-profit sector in England and Wales alone showed that upwards of 600 registered charities provided, as part of the help they offer to people, support with breaks and day trips.
“To give children a holiday in the country does not at once fit them to become either useful workers and desirable members of the community or healthy parents of a new generation, but it affords an admirable stimulus to all manifestations of their physical and moral progress.” The Lancet June 1907
From the Industrial Revolution and well into the first part of last century, the more benevolent factory owners organised holidays for their employees and, even today, some employer and trade union schemes still exist. However, there is no equivalent to be found here in the UK to compare to the social tourism facilities and structures common in mainland Europe. Continue reading →
The Family Holiday Association is just one of a wealth of organisations in Britain working in the field of social tourism, improving access to breaks for those who cannot normally afford them, for a multitude of reasons.
But uniquely, over the years the Family Holiday Association has acted as a champion of social tourism, supporting research, working with partners and trying to explain both the social and economic value of social tourism.
The charity supported the All Party Parliamentary Group’s Social Tourism report, Giving Britain a Break, that was put together back in 2011 under the auspices of the Chairman, Paul Maynard MP.
We believe it is time to do a further push on social tourism. This was the purpose of the April round table during which we heard from a number of different groups who since 2011 have come on board and done some amazing work. You can read the report from the meeting in Westminster here.
One of the pleasures of my work is meeting really nice people. And Paul Maynard MP is one of those people. He was part of the new intake of MPs from the 2010 general election when he was elected in Blackpool North under the Conservative banner.
I met with him just a few months after the election when he agreed to be chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Tourism. Since then he has been a champion of social tourism in the Commons and has provided advice and guidance to the Family Holiday Association ever since. Continue reading →