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​Putting social tourism on the map

Press Release   •   Dec 02, 2016 13:04 GMT

Over 250 struggling families (979 adults and children) have been given a vital break from their day to day hardships thanks to the generosity of Scotland’s tourism industry.

The free short breaks and daytrips were provided by accommodation, transport and activity providers after VisitScotland put out an appeal in February as part of a drive to illustrate the true Spirit of Scotland or #ScotSpirit through the warmth and generosity of the people.

With one in three people in Scotland unable to take a holiday due to cost, ill-health or caring responsibilities, VisitScotland is hoping the initiatives will raise the importance of social tourism in the UK.

More than 30 industry partners were involved in the two social tourism initiatives in 2016 which led to the success. In February, VisitScotland worked with UK charity, the Family Holiday Association on the ScotSpirit holiday initiative which helped provide nearly 100 families with short breaks across Scotland from Aberdeen to Aviemore in the summer. And in October, day breaks were provided to 86 struggling families in the west of Scotland to attractions in neighbouring regions.

The response to the appeal has been so considerable, original targets were exceeded and an extra 84 families were able to take day breaks all over Scotland thanks to generous industry providers.

For 58% of the ScotSpirit families, it was the first time they’d had a break together as a family; 90% felt able to cope better after the trip; 80% had more confidence and 88% felt more optimistic about the future.

The families involved in the breaks were all on low-income, hadn’t had a break for a long time and have at least one child.

Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop said:

“The Scottish Government recognises the importance of families being able to get away to spend time together and we welcomed the partnership between Visit Scotland, the Family Holiday Association and the tourism industry to help disadvantaged families in the West of Scotland to enjoy a much needed break.

“This pilot supported more than 250 families – almost a thousand people - to explore some of Scotland’s most iconic and picturesque attractions, and the impact for those families has been tremendous. It has enabled them to spend time together, often visit somewhere for the first time and have fun as a family. All those involved in the project said they would recommend their break to family and friends, and more than 90 per cent said they plan to return in the future. Given the clear success of this pilot, I look forward to hearing how this could be rolled out throughout the rest of the country.”

VisitScotland’s role has been to work with industry and strategic public and private sector partners – across the accommodation, transport and visitor attraction sectors to secure the breaks. These were then handed over to the delivery partner, registered charity Family Holiday Association, for distribution to vulnerable and disadvantaged families across Scotland.

The legacy from this work in 2016 is extensive. Early in the new year, VisitScotland will host a roundtable event to discuss successes and lessons learned and the future of social tourism in Scotland.

Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of VisitScotland said:

“As the national tourism organisation, it is our role to ensure Scotland is an inclusive, welcoming destination for all. With one in three people unable to take a holiday in Scotland due to economic, social or health concerns, many are missing out on the significant benefits a short break can bring.

“Whether it’s visiting a beach for the very first time, or encountering one of Scotland’s beautiful mountains in the flesh, we want to raise the profile and importance of social tourism through our Spirit of Scotland campaign.

“The Family Holiday Association, alongside many other charities throughout the UK, does an incredible job making holiday dreams become a reality, and we would like to take this opportunity to thank them alongside the tourism businesses which have donated accommodation, transport and activities. It is that generosity of spirit that makes Scotland what it is today.”

For over 40 years, the Family Holiday Association has provided breaks for UK families struggling with issues such as disability, severe and sudden illness, bereavement, mental health issues and domestic violence. The majority of families it 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.

John McDonald, director of the Family Holiday Association, said:

“The Family Holiday Association was delighted to be working with VisitScotland on these important initiatives. Over the years we’ve helped hundreds of struggling Scottish families to benefit from a short break or day out to experience more of the spirit of Scotland for themselves. These initiatives were fantastic opportunities to work with VisitScotland and their partners to help even more Scottish families in 2016.

“We see #ScotSpirit every day in the families we help, families who are struggling with some of the toughest challenges life can bring but are able to create memories that will last a lifetime, strengthening family bonds along the way.

“It’s fantastic to see so many businesses getting involved with this campaign. We are looking forward to working with VisitScotland to help promote inclusivity across the travel and tourism industry so more people can benefit from the unique experiences that Scotland has to offer.”

Businesses that supported ‘ScotSpirit Breaks’ include: Hilton Hotels, Scottish Youth Hostel Association, Ibis, Mercure and Novotel, Macdonald Hotels, Historic Environment Scotland, National Trust for Scotland, Scotrail Abellio, Camera Obscura and World of Illusions, City Sightseeing Bus Tours, Blair Drummond Safari Park, Glasgow Science Centre, Edinburgh Bus Tours, Natural Retreats, Helix Park and Kelpies, Aberdeen Science Centre, Wilderness Scotland, Dynamic Earth, The Real Mary Kings Close, Jacobite Cruises, Macduff Aquarium, Loch Morlich Watersports and Treetops Aviemore, Cal Mac, and the Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions.

Businesses that have donated to The West of Scotland Regional Pilot include: Glasgow Science Centre, ScotRail Abellio, City Link, SPT, Cal Mac, Rabbies Tours, Glasgow Life, Falkirk Wheel, Helix Park and Kelpies, Walter Scott Steamship, Bannockburn, Loch Lomond Sea Life Centre (Merlin), Mount Stuart, Vikingar, Robertson Museum and Aquarium, Largs Putting Green, The Bean & Leaf, Sugar & Spice, National Trust for Scotland, and Historic Environment Scotland.

To find out more about social tourism and how to get involved:

For more information on the Family Holiday Association, please visit:

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