Holidays for Everyone!

This week we’re publishing Social Tourism in Europe by Scott McCabe et al which examines the theory and practice of social tourism within a European context. The authors worked closely with the Family Holiday Association, a charity that provides holidays for disadvantaged familes, and we asked the charity’s director John McDonald to tell us a bit about what the FHA does.

The Family Holiday Association is a charity that understands the power of a holiday. The benefits it can deliver for families, particularly those families who can least afford a break. We know that a simple holiday can help build happier stronger families.

We know this to be the case not just because we see the evidence with our own eyes – we help over 2,000 families from around the UK each year – but, because we also work with universities, what we know intuitively is being backed up by robust research.

The families we help directly are referred to us by health visitors, social workers, charities like NSPCC and Barnardo’s. These families are all living on very low incomes but their situation is almost always compounded by issues of illness, disability, abuse. And most have never been on a break together.

These 2,000 families we work with represent only the tip of the iceberg. Government statistics tell us there are 2.5 million families that can’t afford a one week break away from home. That’s almost 1 in 3 families with dependent children. Over 1 million families can’t even afford a day out.

Helping families get a break not only gives them time together away from the stresses and strains of everyday life but it also gives people new skills, confidence and ambition. This benefits the children, the parents, the family unit and it’s also good for the local community and hence it’s good for society in general.

During the first few months of 2011, a group of 25 MPs have held a “select-committee” style inquiry into something called social tourism. If you haven’t heard of social tourism before you will undoubtedly be hearing more of it in the future. The MPs will launch their inquiry’s report in the Commons in late October.

As a charity we shout about the importance of holidays, we impress on everyone that holidays are important for them and their children, we highlight how millions miss out and we tell the government how other countries take this issue seriously. For example, one French scheme helped 7 million people this year and at the same time pumped $3bn into the French domestic tourism industry.

Social tourism is good for families and good for the economy – it should be attractive to politicians too.

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