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Thousands of disadvantaged children given “life changing” short stays

Press release   •   Feb 06, 2019 13:01 GMT

ScotSpirit Breaks marks is fourth year in 2019.

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

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% of families went away together for the first time.
  • 87% visited somewhere new in Scotland.
  • 97% of children had a new experience.
  • Families from 27 local authority areas have benefitted from a break.

Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs said: “ScotSpirit Breaks is a hugely beneficial initiative that is giving disadvantaged families the opportunity to enjoy time away together for a much-needed break. It’s fantastic to see the reach of the project with thousands of people across the country benefitting from these experiences and having the chance to appreciate Scotland’s wonderful sights and attractions.

“The partnership working across the tourism sector to make ScotSpirit Breaks possible, demonstrates a generosity and inclusivity that the Scottish tourism sector can be proud of, and I hope the project will continue to build on its success, so more families can enjoy what Scotland has to offer.”

Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of VisitScotland, said: “Scotland is about building bridges, connecting places and bringing people together. Tourism is at the heart of this and VisitScotland works with the tourism industry and strategic partners to ensure Scotland is an inclusive, welcoming destination for all.

“The ScotSpirit Breaks would not exist without the generosity of tourism industry businesses and partners who have kindly donated accommodation, transport and access to visitor attractions to create experiences that will have a long-lasting positive effect on those participating families.

“Ever since 2016, when we teamed up with the Family Holiday Association, the response has been amazing, and we remain committed to continuing the initiative and engage with more families and industry partners across Scotland.”

John Kinnear, Head of Programmes at the Family Holiday Association, said: “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.

“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.”

Stewart Lorimer, Area General Manager at Hilton, said: “We are proud to have been a part of this amazing programme from the beginning, working with VisitScotland to give struggling families the chance of a well-deserved break.

“Over the past three years we have donated rooms in our Hilton properties across Scotland and it’s been wonderful to see our staff really engage with those families and ensure they have a memorable experience. We’re proud of what we have achieved and delighted to continue to support the ScotSpirit Breaks going forward.”

What families said about their ScotSpirit Break:

“The break made me feel more human and important. I found it quite emotional because we have never been tourists before. It helps people in a mental health situation know that there is a bigger world out there.”

“The break meant freedom. It was a change from the day to day, a chance to spend time together.”

“This was the first holiday I’ve ever had with my children. I loved seeing their faces as they enjoyed their holiday. You have provided my family the opportunity of a holiday that I could not give them.”

Notes to Editors

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Scotland’s Themed Years

  • Following an industry consultation, the Themed Years will now take place every second year to enable more time for planning and opportunities for collaboration.
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