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APPG chairman, Paul Maynard, visits Flanders

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In late August 2012, just prior to the new Parliamentary session, Paul Maynard, MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys, visited Flanders in Belgium to see at first hand how one long-established social tourism programme was working.

The Flanders Tourist Board gave evidence to the All-Party Parliamentary Social Tourism Group in the summer of 2011 and, following the publication of the APPG report “Giving Britain a Break”, Mr Geert Bourgeois, the Flanders Government Tourism Minister, invited the Group and the Family Holiday Association over to Flanders.

The Flanders Tourist Board gave evidence to the All-Party Parliamentary Social Tourism Group in the summer of 2011 and, following the publication of the APPG report “Giving Britain a Break”, Mr Geert Bourgeois, the Flanders Government Tourism Minister, (photographed above receiving a copy of the APPG report from Paul Maynard) invited the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Tourism and the Family Holiday Association over to Flanders.

Key findings of the visit were:

• That social tourism is part of the fabric of the tourism industry in Flanders.

• That in Flanders family holiday’s are considered as having a very significant and important place in people’s lives with many personal and social benefits.

• The Flanders tourism office, Tourism Flanders, has a budget of 80m euros including capital investment and marketing.

• Of this budget, approximately 500,000 euros goes to support social tourism.

• Flanders expects to help 100,000 individuals this year.

• People are identified through third party social and welfare organisations and are assessed against European standards of poverty in order to assess eligibility.

• Tourism Flanders operates a brochure of all the locations and places that are available for hire and match customer demand with availability. Many guests will go away at the same time as other holiday makers, but the hotel or management will provide discount for those visiting under a social tourism banner.

• Only indirect Government involvement is required to help social tourism but it was clear that their broad support was important to ensure that the social tourism sector flourished.

• There was a general sense that the social tourism model was also attractive to a number of other countries and was being explored elsewhere.

• The visit was helpful to increase our understanding of the Flanders model and provoked a number of ideas for how to further promote social tourism in the UK.

Paul Maynard with Peter De Wilde, Director of Tourism Flanders

Paul Maynard with Peter De Wilde, Director of Tourism Flanders

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