Life-changing project gives thousands of children their first family holiday

An initiative which has given 1,100 vulnerable families, including 2,369 children, a “life-changing” short break in Scotland is transforming Scottish tourism, claims VisitScotland.

The ScotSpirit Breaks, which enters its fourth year in 2019, is a nationwide social tourism project coordinated by the national tourism organisation and the Family Holiday Association charity.

Over 100 industry partners, from accommodation and transport providers to attractions, have been involved in the initiative since it began.

During the last three years more than 4,300 people have experienced 319 short breaks and 780 day-trips in Scotland as part of the project.

Last year marked the Year of Young People and during that time 934 children experienced a ScotSpirit Break, with 2369 in total from 2016-2018.

A survey carried out last year with businesses involved in the ScotSpirit Breaks found that all respondents supported the initiative due to a “desire to support a good cause (helping disadvantaged families)” with two thirds believing that breaks “should be inclusive and be available to everyone in society”.

VisitScotland launched the initiative in 2016 to raise the importance of social tourism in Scotland and illustrate the true spirit of Scotland through the warmth and generosity of the tourism industry.

Businesses and partners across the tourism sector donate accommodation, transport and tickets for family-friendly visitor attractions and experiences.

These are combined to make short breaks or day trips that are matched with families referred by charities and social welfare organisations across Scotland. To date 150 different Scottish charities and social welfare organisations have successfully referred families to the Family Holiday Association, which has been helping families get a break for more than 40 years.

The International Social Tourism Organisation defines social tourism as “any activities contributing, in a fair and sustainable way, to a greater access to holidays and tourism activities for everyone”. In addition to supporting vulnerable families, social tourism can have positive impacts on domestic tourism numbers, helping address seasonality and supporting local year-round employment.

Statistics show that more than one in three families in Scotland are unable to take a break – be it due to cost, ill-health, caring responsibilities or a lack of confidence – with more than 230,000 children living in relative poverty.

The majority of families the Family Holiday Association supports have never before been on a family holiday. The evidence shows that spending time together away from their daily struggles can be life-changing for the families they work with.

A survey of families who have received a ScotSpirit Break found almost 70 per cent of families went away together for the first time; 87 per cent visited somewhere new in Scotland; 97 per cent of children had a new experience.; and families from 27 local authority areas have benefitted from a break.

“Giving struggling Scottish families the chance to be tourists in their own country makes a massive difference, broadening horizons and highlighting the fantastic opportunities on offer,” said John Kinnear, Head of Programmes at the Family Holiday Association.

“Sadly, too many families miss out on these opportunities and it’s been fantastic to work with VisitScotland and dozens of generous industry partners to help create memories that will last a lifetime.”