Family Holidays: A Priority Not a Privilege
The following post was originally published on the Huffington Post in August 2015 as part of the charity’s 40th Anniversary activities.
Peter Long is currently Chairman of Royal Mail, Chairman of Countrywide, a member of the Supervisory Board for TUI Group and President of the Family Holiday Association.
I have vivid memories of being a child at the seaside – a particularly prominent and treasured memory involves my whole family. We were on a beach building sandcastles, and my father was handing flags to me to put on the top of them.
I’m sure my own memories will bring many of your own to the surface – the taste of ice cream that trickled down your chin in the heat, the smell of salt on the air, the heat of the sand in contrast to the refreshing sea. For most of us, simple moments like these have created lasting memories.
For so many of us coveting such memories, we may find it hard to confront the reality that they are born from a position of privilege. Living in the 21st century in one of the most ambitious and successful economies in the world, it is almost unfathomable to contemplate that at least 1.46 million families – that’s 4.74million people in the UK – can’t get a break away together, even for a simple day trip.
This is especially unfortunate because it’s often these struggling families that need a break the most.
As the UK holiday season quickly approaches, a report published in June  by the Family Holiday Association – the charity that gives struggling families a break – is a timely and important reminder of the compelling benefits of a family holiday.
The report confirmed that more than half of Brits say their happiest memory – even more than a wedding day or birth of a child – is of a family holiday, particularly by the seaside. Some of the most favoured memories include eating ice-creams on the beach, collecting shells and jumping the waves. Like the memories, the happiness people felt during these times still resonates with clarity many years later – the ability to call upon these memories in darker times is aptly described by John McDonald, the Director of the Family Holiday Association, as a ‘happiness anchor’.
Equally compelling are the benefits of a family holiday for those who were able to go on holiday through the Family Holiday Association when they wouldn’t otherwise have been able to. These families are not only weathering the storm of life, but have been challenged by sudden bereavement, mental or physical health issues and often prolonged hardship. These families had their lives changed and transformed by a break away.
From parents noting a renewed sense of purpose in finding a job and improving their relationship with their partner through to improved attendance and performance of children in school and showing more affection to other family members. The results are powerful and irrefutable – not only for the individual families, but for society as a whole.
As the former chief executive of the largest leisure, travel and tourism company in the world, TUI, and the President of the Family Holiday Association, I’ve seen both sides of the divide. I consider it my duty not only in these roles, but as a husband, father and fellow human being, to, say, that family holidays should not be a privilege they should be a fundamental human right.
Today, there is no stereotypical family unit – families come in all shapes and sizes and the family unit is constantly evolving. But one thing that remains unchanged and will remain valid in perpetuity is that time together as a family can bring immense joy, happiness, and fulfilment.
This is the binding common denominator between each and every one of us – we are deserving of these things, and so are our families. Healthier families contribute to a healthier society. As the summer holidays are upon us, I think it’s important to remember those who aren’t able to take a break from their busy lives – and maybe give them a helping hand.