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 Roundtable, 5 April 2017 at School of Management, Swansea University
April saw the first roundtable discussion on social tourism in Wales, Professor Nigel Morgan, Chair in Visitor Economy Management at Swansea University, brought together a wide range of interested organisations to discuss the benefits and issues around social tourism.
The group included Mari Stevens, Marketing Director, Visit Wales and Wales’ deputy chief medical officer Dr Chris Jones. David Stephens from the Welsh Government and Lee McRonald of Visit Scotland together with John Kinnear, the Family Holiday Association programme manager, gave a presentations. Pdf copies are available below –
The work of the Family Holiday Association was given top billing during a recent debate in the Scottish Parliament.
Following VisitScotland’s successful ScotSpirit campaign last year and the social tourism pilot in Glasgow last October, the Scottish Government scheduled the following motion for debate that began –
“That the Parliament recognises the vital role that tourism plays in Scotland’s prosperity, not only in its direct economic impact, but in the many ways that it can help to tackle the inequalities that exist in society; notes the recent collaboration by VisitScotland, the Family Holiday Association, Historic Environment Scotland and the many industry partners to provide ScotSpirit Breaks for families in difficult circumstances, which has shown the positive impact that the industry can have on improving the lives and life-chances of people who are not able to step outside their everyday routine…” My emphasis.
The following video is only a small portion of the debate that lasted over two and a half hours and garnered cross-party support.
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.