Researchers are to study the social and economic benefits of getting away from it all in a knowledge transfer partnership with a national charity that offers holidays and short breaks to disadvantaged families.
The two-year project, being led by Dr Scott McCabe in the Division of Marketing at Nottingham University Business School, will examine the impact that supported holidays offered by the Family Holiday Association have on the lives of thousands of families every year.
The study, which is the largest social tourism research project ever undertaken in the UK, will also look at the potential knock-on economic effects on the country’s tourism industry.
More than two million children in the UK live in families who cannot afford a day trip to the seaside, let alone a proper holiday. The Family Holiday Association is a London-based charity that works to help disadvantaged families get that much needed break away from home.
The charity, funded from a combination of public fundraising, charitable trusts and corporate donations, estimates it will help around 2,000 families this year. Families are referred to the charity by welfare agencies, such as social workers or health visitors, charitable organisations including Barnardo’s and the NSPCC and GPs and schools.
All those who are helped by the Family Holiday Association are on a low income and have not had a holiday in the past four years — in fact, the majority have never before been away together as a family.
In all cases, the families will be coping with life under very difficult circumstances, whether it be poverty, the serious illness of a parent or child or suffering from the impact of domestic violence.
Dr Scott McCabe, associate professor in tourism management and marketing, said: “Holidays for people in these circumstances are not just a short-term fix but offer long-lasting benefits, creating opportunities for children and adults to function better together as a family.
“The holidays offered by the Family Holiday Association are by no means luxury — often it’s just a basic short break at a UK seaside resort or a stay in a caravan — but importantly it takes them out of the situation they are in to start to see beyond their problems and gives many families the essential breathing space they need to begin building goals for themselves.
“Equally importantly, it gives parents the chance to spend quality time with their children free from the troubles of everyday life and to share new experiences and opportunities which will provide them with shared happy memories for many years to come.”
The project has been funded with around £137,000 from the Government’s Knowledge Transfer Scheme through the Technology Strategy Board, the Economic and Social Research Council and the Family Holiday Association and will attempt to uncover which sections of society are less likely to take a holiday and look at ways of widening access for them.
The Nottingham researchers will undertake a comprehensive study into the wellbeing and other benefits of a holiday for people who otherwise could not afford one, as well as looking at data on public attitudes to holidays collected through the National Office for Statistics.
Their study will concentrate on three main areas of the Family Holiday Association’s programme — children and young people; healthy lifestyles, and; relationships including those suffering from domestic violence.
Among the issues the research will look at will be whether schools should offer more flexibility to families wanting to take children out of school for holidays during term time, the potential learning and educational benefits it could offer and whether it could help encourage a more sustainable tourism industry by extending the holiday high season.
They will also examine whether supported holidays, where families receiving practical and financial help to get a break in the UK offers a further boost to the tourism economy through spending and job creation in the low season.
The researchers will also be interviewing families to establish whether their supported holiday has had longer lasting effects and been a catalyst for change in their lives.
The research partners are hoping the study will have far reaching consequences by helping to shape policy at a time when the Coalition government is putting social well-being at the heart of its welfare agenda.
In December last year the first All Party Parliamentary Group on social tourism was established, making a ‘select committee style’ inquiry into social tourism in the UK its first priority.
“We are delighted to be collaborating with The University of Nottingham on this important project. Until now, social tourism has been a neglected subject for research in the UK, particularly in a social policy context. Not only will this project illuminate the social and economic benefits of social tourism provision, it will also make an important contribution into the All Party Parliamentary Group inquiry into social tourism,” said John McDonald, Director of the Family Holiday Association.
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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham, described by The Sunday Times University Guide 2011 as ‘the embodiment of the modern international university’, has award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. It is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 75 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and the QS World University Rankings. It was named ‘Europe’s greenest university’ in the UI GreenMetric World University Ranking, a league table of the world’s most environmentally-friendly higher education institutions, which ranked Nottingham second in the world overall.
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More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to the most recent Research Assessment Exercise, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranked the University 7th in the UK by research power.
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