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ScotSpirit breaks celebrate record year

Press release   •   Dec 20, 2017 08:37 GMT

From left to right, Lisa Malcolm, Makenzi Smith and Kacey McMillan at Glasgow Science Centre. Kacey is Lisa’s daughter and Makenzi is a Kacey’s friend.

Over 420 struggling families have received a vital break thanks to the outstanding generosity of Scotland’s tourism industry VisitScotland has revealed today (20 December 2017).

The ScotSpirit breaks, a nationwide project coordinated by the national tourism organisation and the Family Holiday Association, have built on the success of 2016 with a 67% increase in the number of families getting time away, as well as more than twice as many industry partners providing support.

Collaboration is at the heart of the project and thanks to the generosity of the 88 partners across Scotland’s tourism industry, who donated accommodation, transport, meals and visitor attraction access, over 1600 people were able to experience a much-needed break. Two-thirds of the families had never had a break together before.

For many of the families, the results have been life-changing:

  • 87% visited a new part of Scotland for the first time
  • 83% now have more confidence
  • 89% get on better
  • 96% are able to cope better
  • 100% said they had fun and created happy memories

All families helped were referred by a professional working with them in a supporting role like a teacher, social worker or health visitor. All families are on low income, with many facing some of the toughest challenges life can bring such as adverse health, inadequate housing, domestic violence or bereavement.

This year saw a 36% increasein the number of charities and community organisations successfully applying for breaks on behalf of families.

Over one in three people in Scotland are unable to take a break and over 250,000 children live in relative poverty. VisitScotland launched the ScotSpirit Breaks in 2016 to explore how the tourism sector can contribute to social inclusion and help tackle this issue.

This project has already delivered a considerable impact on over 2,500 people in Scotland, enabling many to participate in tourism for the first time and enjoy a range of positive impacts on their well-being. VisitScotland and the Family Holiday Association are now looking forward to 2018, where they hope to gain the support of more tourism partners across the country and help more families get that fundamental break that will mean so much to them.

2018 marks the Year of Young People which will inspire Scotland through its young people aged 8 to 26, celebrating their achievements, valuing their contributions to communities and creating new opportunities for them to shine locally, nationally and globally. As so many young people are impacted by this project, this themed year presents an exciting opportunity to further develop the ScotSpirit breaks.

Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, said: “The ScotSpirit breaks is a fantastic initiative that allows disadvantaged families to enjoy time away together for a much needed break and I’m pleased a record number have benefitted this year. The feedback from families show the impact on them has been overwhelmingly positive.

“The partnership working across the tourism sector to allow ScotSpirit breaks to happen is to be welcomed and I hope the project will continue to build on its success so more families can enjoy Scotland’s tourism offering.”

VisitScotland’s role has been to work with industry and public sectors alike in order to secure the breaks, collaborating in the private sector with a wide range of accommodation, transport and visitor attraction providers across the country. It partnered with registered charity, the Family Holiday Association, which received applications for the breaks from its network of family-related charities and health care professionals for distribution to vulnerable and disadvantaged families across Scotland.

Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive for VisitScotland, said: “VisitScotland is committed to working with the tourism industry and strategic partners to ensure Scotland is an inclusive, welcoming destination for all. We want to make it as easy as possible for people to discover Scotland. The impact for those who don’t have the opportunity for a break is huge; and helping increase access to tourism holds great potential for the industry.

“It’s wonderful to see that the ScotSpirit breaks have built so well on last year’s success. Partnership and collaboration are at the heart of Scottish tourism so it’s fantastic to see so many more partners across the private and public sector do their bit to help struggling families experience the magic of a break in Scotland. I’d like to say a big thank you to all the businesses and partners who have supported the project – it wouldn’t have been possible without them and I hope that, together, we can harness that warm spirit again in 2018 to enable even more families.”

For over 40 years, the Family Holiday Association has provided breaks for 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: “Everyone at the Family Holiday Association is absolutely thrilled to be celebrating a very successful second year for the ScotSpirit breaks. To see so many more families experience a life-changing break is a fantastic achievement and one we are very proud of. I’d like to say a massive thank you to the Scottish tourism industry for making this possible.

“With over a third of Scottish families missing out on a simple break each year, it is imperative that we build on this year’s success and 2018 represents an opportunity to help even more struggling families get that much-needed time away. We have had an incredible year and now it’s time to get more people, businesses and organisations involved in this project.”

Stewart Lorimer, Regional General Manager at Hilton, said:We are proud to have been a part of this amazing initiative, donating rooms in five Hilton properties across Scotland so that families could enjoy a well-deserved break. This was our second year working with VisitScotland, providing families with memorable experiences and fantastic stays across the country and we look forward to continuing our partnership with VisitScotland.”

Businesses that supported the ScotSpirit breaks include: Abellio ScotRail, Aberdeen Science Centre, Apex Hotels, Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions (ASVA), Auchrannie Leisure, Best Western, Blair Castle & Gardens, Blair Drummond Safari & Adventure Park, British Holiday & Home Parks Association Ltd, CairnGorm Mountain (Natural Retreats), CalMac Ferries Ltd, Can You Escape Ltd, Crerar Hotels, Cruise Loch Ness, Dalkeith Country Park, Dolphin Spirit, Dundee Heritage Trust, Dundee Museum of Transport, Edinburgh Bus Tours (Lothian Buses), Edinburgh Butterfly & Insect World, Enjoy Leisure, Falkirk Wheel (Scottish Canals), Forest Holidays, Frankie & Lola’s, Glasgow Life, Glasgow Science Centre, Go Ape, Hallmark Hotels, Highland Experience Tours, Highland Explorer Tours, Highland Safaris, Hilton Hotels, Historic Environment Scotland, Ibis Hotels, Interstate Hotels (Holiday Inn), Inveraray Castle, Inveraray Jail, Inverness Castle (High Life Highland), Kelpies (The Helix – Falkirk Community Trust), Landmark Forest Adventure Park, Live Active Leisure,Loch Lomond Bird of Prey Centre, Loch Morlich Watersports, Loch Ness By Jacobite, Macdonald Hotels & Resorts, Mercat Tours, Mercure Hotels, Mount Stuart House and Gardens, Museums & Galleries Edinburgh, National Museums of Scotland, National Trust for Scotland, National Wallace Monument, New Lanark Visitor Attraction, Paddle Steamer Waverley, Palace of Holyrood House – Royal Collection Trust, Parkdean Resorts, Pitlochry Dam and Visitor Centre, Principal Hotels, Rabbies, Radical Travel (Haggis Tours), Redefine BDL Hotels, Robertson Museum and Aquarium (Field Studies Council), Rodney Johnston Tours, Rosslyn Chapel Trust, Ryze, Scone Palace, Scotland’s Secret Bunker, Scottish Citylink, Scottish Seabird Centre, Scottish Sea Life Sanctuary (Merlin Entertainments), Scottish Segway Centre, Sea Life Loch Lomond (Merlin Entertainments), SGE Hotels, SPT, St Andrew’s Aquarium, Sugar & Spice, Sweeney’s Cruise Co, SYHA Hostelling Scotland, The Real Mary King’s Close, The Royal Yacht Britannia, The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, The Steamship Sir Walter Scott, TImberbush Tours, Verdant Works, Vikingar (K-A Leisure), West Coast Motors (City Sightseeing), Whynot?, and Wilderness Scotland.

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

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

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