Reseach - Holidays are for everyone

Research rapport  into the effects and the importance of holidays for people living in poverty is available in Dutch, English and French.

Pictures & text taken from our daily experiences

A holiday, even if this short or close by, is a source of stories. We believe these stories are so revealing that they found their way into a booklet. 'Because holidays are for every one!'

The qotations guide you through the experiences of people for whom going on holiday is a major undertaking, both financially and emotionally.

Today this booklet is also available at te 'download section' of this website.  As long as we have hard copies, you can receive one by sending an e- mail to info@holidayparticipation.be/

DETERMINE - an EU Consortium for Action on Socio-economic Determinants of Health

The Holiday Participation Centre is a good practices to reduce health inequalities!

The initiative, DETERMINE (2007-2010) establishes an EU Consortium for Action on the Socio-economic Determinants of Health (SDH), which aims to take forward the work of the WHO Commission on the SDH (CSDH) in an EU context.
\r\nIt brings together over 50 health bodies, public health and health promotion institutes, governments and various other organizations from 26 European countries.

More details about policies and strategies driven by non-health sector and the Flemisch policy : http://www.health-inequalities.eu/bot_Seite2818.html

English presentation video: watch and discover!

Watch and discover! Open the video here.

Press Release

The World Leisure Organization honors the Flemish tourism projects for people in poverty and people with disabilities.


Everyone deserves a holiday, even people in poverty or with disabilities. Flanders is the only region in the world that puts so many efforts into making holiday accommodations and tourist attractions accessible to everyone. On Friday, November 18 2011, Tourism Flanders is crowned at the World Leisure Expo in Hangzhou, China, with two unique projects in the field of social innovation. Marianne Schapmans, head of the Holiday Participation Centre, received a certificate for an example of good practice on social tourism.

According to the Flemish Minister of Tourism, Geert Bourgeois, holiday is a right for everyone: "Even people who are more poorly off need to recharge their batteries during a journey or day trip and need to make time for themselves and their families. For people with disabilities, the infrastructure should be adapted, so that they too can enjoy a holiday," explains the Minister. "Ten years ago, two services were established to put these groups on the way: the Accessible Travel Info Point and the Holiday Participation Centre."

The Holiday Participation Centre, a service of Tourism Flanders, negotiates social rates for deprived vacationers with owners of accommodation, tourist attractions and holiday providers.

"The success of The Holiday Participation Centre is the beautiful result of a unique collaboration between government, social organizations and more than 1,000 tourism operators. The enthusiasm of all these actors is the driving force for the chances of an affordable vacation for everyone. Besides the dedicated employees and the satisfied participants, I believe that we have a unique public-private partnership, where we have achieved maximum efficiency with limited resources," said Minister Bourgeois.

Accessible Travel Info Point provides information about the accessibility of various holiday destinations to travelers with disabilities or limits. Accessible Travel Info Point also offers the tourism sector background information on accessibility, financial aid possibilities and guidelines for accessibility adaptations.

The Holiday Participation Centre and Accessible Travel Info Point urged the tourism industry to throw their doors open, to pursue an ethical and social policy, to offer discounts and to adapt their infrastructure.

Meanwhile, approximately 100,000 Flemings each year make use of the social rate to make a day trip or vacation. Hundreds of attractions and places to stay have been made ​​more accessible and there are thousands of pages full of practical travel tips written for people who have a handicap.

It is not the first time the two departments of Tourism Flanders are honored with an award. There has been applause from the tourism organization of the United Nations and various institutions in Europe (Euro Health, European Network for Accessible Tourism). At the last Tourism Executive Council in Korea, the Flemish Minister of Tourism, Geert Bourgeois, received congratulations from both economics professor Jeffrey Sachs as Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General of the UNWTO World Tourism Organization. The pioneering work on the two Flemish services was presented as a founding model for the industry to more than 230 tourism ministers.

In many countries, plans are made to copy the model of the Holiday Participation Centre and the Accessible Travel Info Point. But to this day, they remain unique in their kind and unique in the world. Hundreds of academics, policy makers and tourism players have already signed up to attend the presentation of head of department Marianne Schapmans at the World Leisure Expo.

For more information and rates:





First European Travel Experience

Young holiday heroes trotting around Europe!

The European Commission’s Calypso Preparatory Action opens up travel for underprivileged groups and - at the same time - boosts local economies and employment opportunities. At the end of 2011 the Commission selected the First European Travel Experience (FETE)-project to which a grant of €135.000 was accorded. This project is a cooperation between 4 European regions: Flanders (Belgium), Jämtland Härjedalen (Sweden), Kainuu (Finland) and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (Germany). FETE will be implemented in the course of this year with pilot holidays planned in August and September.

The European Commission’s Calypso Preparatory Action opens up travel for underprivileged groups and - at the same time - boosts local economies and employment opportunities. At the end of 2011 the Commission selected the First European Travel Experience (FETE)-project to which a grant of €135.000 was accorded. This project is a cooperation between 4 European regions: Flanders (Belgium), Jämtland Härjedalen (Sweden), Kainuu (Finland) and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (Germany). FETE will be implemented in the course of this year with pilot holidays planned in August and September.

With Tourism Flanders as its prime mover, FETE promotes first holiday experiences for young people in Finland, Germany, Sweden and Belgium. For the first time international partners join forces to work together in order to develop methodologies and good practices. For a pilot exchange project in which different groups of young people, inexperienced in traveling abroad due to financial or other constraints, get the opportunity to go on holiday in one of the partner regions. Every country will host a holiday stay with participants from all partner regions, thus allowing a total of approximately 64 youngsters aged between 16 and 26 to participate. The holidays will be organized during the low and shoulder season supporting the reduced touristic supply in each region’s calm periods.

One of the main goals of the FETE project is to stimulate the cooperation between the public and the private sector in different European regions. Next to that, it is envisaged that, in the future, the developed partnerships, methodologies and best practices could be transferred to other European regions and countries. All participating regions are member of ISTO which facilitated the initial collaboration and will collaborate actively in the future development of the project.

It is exactly because of the multi-faceted aims of the FETE project (international cooperation and youth tourism as well as stimulating the economy) that this proposal was chosen by the European Commission and granted financing.

Traveling internationally means reinforcing intercultural learning, transnational social interaction and European citizenship. With this project all partner regions contribute in realizing the right to holiday on a European level.

Because everyone deserves a break!

More information



Tel. +32 (0)2 504 25 01- Mob. +32 (0)491 96 22 31

The Holiday Participation Centre receives two international awards within one year

\r\nA week ago, the United Nations World Travel Organisation (UNWTO) presented a silver award to Tourism Flanders. Exactly one year ago, The World Leisure Organization praised the Holiday Participation Centre as well.
\r\nPeter De Wilde, Administrator-General of Tourism Flanders, received the award in Istanbul. It means a wonderful recognition of the efforts of tourist partners en social organisations to give people who are often excluded, the chance to go on a day trip or a holiday in Flanders. Tourism Flanders’ Holiday Participation Centre is already bringing question and offer together for 10 years. This is necessary, because the importance of holiday to people on a low income is often underestimated. The UNWTO rewarded the initiative with a silver award because this public-private cooperation can be considered a best practice and an example for the rest of the world.
\r\nThe Flemish minister of Tourism Geert Bourgeois is excited with de UNWTO-award. “People on a low income are entitled to go on holiday as well and need to recharge their batteries during a holiday or day trip”. This award rewards the innovative concept of the cooperation between more than 1000 social organization and approximately 440 willing entrepreneurs in the tourist sector, attraction, hoteliers, holiday centers, who make holidays accessible to people on a low income. In this cooperation, Tourism Flanders functions as a motivator and intermediary.”
\r\n“UNWTO’s secretary-general Taleb Rifai emphasized in a personal speech the great sample value of the efforts that Tourism Flanders is making to make holidays accessible to everyone”, says Tourism Flanders’ administrator-general Peter De Wilde. “Flanders – which is associated member of UNWTO – considers it is important to maintain strong ties with the world tourism organisation. As a small tourist destination we are boxing above weight, but our ambition justifies this.
\r\nIt is the goodwill and voluntary cooperation of the private sector that is making the system of social holidays so unique and cost-effective. But also the personal approach of Tourism Flanders via its own booking center is of high importance. And the results are clear. In 2001, Tourism Flanders could offer a comforting holiday to 752 people. 10 years later, it reached 100000 people.
\r\nWorld Leisure Organization
\r\nOn the 18th of November 2011, exactly one year ago, the head of the Holiday Participation Centre, Marianne Schapmans, received a certificate for an example of good practice on social tourism. She received this reward on the World Leisure Expo in Hangzhou, China.            

South-African interest in the concept of Holiday Participation

Marianne Schapmans from the Holiday Participation Centre went to the South-African Durban in September. She was invited as a guest-speaker at the congress Larasa (Leisure and Recreation of South Africa) that was held from the 14th until the 17th of September to tell more about the unique operation of the Holiday Participation Center.

The South-African organisation Larasa provides for a learning and development environment for professionals from the recreation sector. They encourage the development of different new strategies to reposition recreation and leisure. Marianne met the organisers of the congress before in China, during the World Leisure Awards. Until late at night, they exchanged information about their daily work. The operation of the Holiday Participation Centre was considered unique and the organisers wanted to promote it.

During the congress, Marianne talked about the power of the platform of cooperation and she answered the question about the way we can realise the right to go on holiday thanks to the efforts of very different sectors.

Presentation of the Holiday Participation Centre in Durban: http://www.vakantieparticipatie.be/page/download/type/5

The Holiday Participation Centre establishes a news network

\r\n In January 2013, Tourism Flanders launched the co-operation with Axiomnieuws Belgium, an organisation that turns stories into news. In time, the Holiday Participation has collected numerous beautiful, inspiring and touching stories. The Holiday Participation Centre decided to publish these stories so these can function as a source of inspiration to other people.
\r\nThe foundation of this storytelling network was laid at the Holiday Participation Forum on the 22nd of January in 2013 in Courtrai. Each participant had the chance to tell his or her story. All these stories were collected in a newspaper, that was distributed at the end of the day.
\r\nIf you would like to read more about this unique co-operation, click here: http://www.axiomnews.ca/node/3390
\r\nIf you would like to relive the Holiday Participation Forum 2013, click here to see the film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3X6_reFUg8Y

Publication of a new research

The Holiday Participation Centre has published a new research notebook 'Holidays are for everyone: Developments in the facilitation of tourism for people in poverty'. This notebook provides an overview in the changes and evolutions of the organisation over time, collects stories and testimonies of a range of stakeholders, and maps future directions.

The research can be downloaded here: https://www.vakantieparticipatie.be/files/dl/fileId/6696

The Holiday Participation Centre welcomes a visitor from Japan

On the 5th of August, the Holiday Participation Center welcomed Professor Tatsuya Oka from the Shumei University in Japan, where he teaches tourism and hospitality. Because of his research on social tourism, he visited Visit Flanders and the Holiday Participation Center.

Professor Oka and the team of the Holiday Participation Center discussed some cultural differences between Japan and Flanders. In Japan, there aren't any numbers that correctly reflect the amount of people that live in poverty. People in Japan are very much ashamed of living in poverty. Therefore, they rather be hungry than search for help.
Although shame also exist with Flemish people in poverty, it is accepted in our society and there are different social measures that try to help people in poverty.

In Flanders, a holiday is considered as a fundamental right. In Japan, however, many people do not dare to go on holiday, because they would be considered lazy by their boss.

Professor Tatsuya Oka was very interested and promised to talk about our ideas in Japan.