Next week at the Abta Travel Convention, the Family Holiday Association (FHA) will officially launch its new campaign, Together.
Michael Smout, head of marketing, says the idea for the initiative was born out of the charity’s ambitious new strategy.
“By the end of 2020, we want to double the number of families that we are helping every year,” he says.
Over the past four years, FHA has helped, on average, 4,000 families who are experiencing difficult times to have a short break.
“The aim is to take that number to 8,000 every year,” Smout says. “Together summarises what needs to happen for us to achieve that – we need to work with individuals and with the industry to raise money and we need to work with referrers to find the families to help. The headline
figure is double what it was and we can’t do that ourselves.”
As well as new targets and creative initiatives, FHA has invested in a new technology platform that “looks very much like a travel agency system”, Smout explains. The system will enable the charity’s staff to process bookings quicker, meaning they will be able to deal with the additional capacity it hopes to offer families. “The tech will allow us to change the way we work. It means we can package together transport, accommodation and tickets faster and offer a wider range of day trips and breaks,” he says.
In recent years, FHA has developed a number of partnerships. For example, three years ago Visit Scotland launched its #ScotSpirit campaign, aiming to get families out to experience their own country and its attractions.
Smout says FHA worked with the tourist board, which asked its partners to donate transport, accommodation and attractions tickets so that the charity could package it up for its families.
“We are now trying to replicate the same thing with Visit Wales and we are doing a similar thing in York with stays at Youth Hostel Association (YHA) hostels. The new technology helps us to do all this much more efficiently,” he adds.
The charity already has a number of industry ambassadors, with Dnata’s Lisa McAuley and Aito chair Noel Josephides among their ranks, and new ambassadors will be revealed alongside the new launch.
It also partners with a number of businesses, such as Hoseasons and Clia, and is the nominated charity at awards events including the British Guild of Travel Writers, all of which Smout highlights as being key to the success it has had so far.
“Now we want to extend the conversation further, and this is where the new campaign comes
in,” he says.
In October, FHA will deliver a mail-out to outline the new Together campaign and highlight what people can do to support it.
One key initiative will be “Adopt a Caravan”. FHA owns a number of caravans at holiday parks around the UK where families can stay.
“It’s important that we own them to ensure we have the capacity over the busy peak summer period, but it’s very expensive to run them,” Smout says.
The initiative allows individuals or organisations to adopt a caravan, pledging to provide £10,000 for 12 months and give “a year of hope to families who need it”.
However, Smout is quick to assert that not all fundraising activities need be on this scale.
“Some agents that support the charity donate a percentage of their commission to us, for example, and there are lots of activities to get involved in from a fundraising perspective. There’s the running, cycling, skydiving-type events, but we’ve also added lots of new things to our website, such as the Gauntlet Games – an It’s a Knockout-style challenge – plus Dog Jog [running with your pooch], and even bake sales.”
Recently, a group of Tui retail agents raised money for the charity by taking part in an Escape Room, and its regional sales managers did a sponsored silence earlier this year – which didn’t come naturally to them, Smout relays.
He adds that travel agents are a great fit for the charity: “Agents are so enthusiastic and passionate about helping customers, booking them on the right holiday and making sure they have a fantastic time. They instinctively understand that holidays are important for people who are less fortunate, who don’t have access to a break because they can’t afford it or because of physical or mental health problems or domestic violence. It’s recognising the benefits that they will receive from having a break.”
The FHA has existed for more than 40 years and provides breaks for families struggling with disability, severe and sudden illness, bereavement, mental health issues and domestic violence.
Most of the families it helps have never been on a holiday, and its research shows that spending time together away from daily stress and worry can be life-changing.
The majority of getaways it provides are short breaks to British seaside destinations, but it also organises day trips to local attractions.
One such trip was a day out at a wildlife park for a group of families from Yorkshire. And, for one boy in particular, it was life-changing.
Earlier in the year, Jack experienced a trauma and hadn’t spoken or been to school since. After the trip, one of the health visitors involved told the FHA: “On arrival at the park, Jack asked a member of staff: ‘What does a lion look like?’
“By the time he returned to the coach, he was talking and interacting with the other children.
“He has returned to school for a slow reintegration. During a meeting of professionals, it was stated that the trip appears to have created a spontaneous recovery – this can happen with trauma victims. We never expected such a miraculous outcome for the young man.”