Who are we?

The Holiday Participation Centre makes holidays accessible for all, including people on a low income. Because everyone is entitled to a breathing space, to experiences that can give one energy.

The Holiday Participation Centre, a service of Tourism Flanders & Brussels, was founded in May 2001, and quickly grew. It targets persons and families in poverty who, for reasons, are unable to take a holiday. This target group is reached via social member organisations.

It is important for everyone to visit a different environment occasionally, to recharge their batteries, to relax. “Going on holiday is a psychological boost”, said one of the holidaymakers. The word ‘holiday’ almost automatically encourages thoughts of wonderful memories.

14,5% of Flemish people live in a family that cannot afford a week’s holiday away from home. This concerns over 880.000 people. Since holidays are a basic right and bring people back into contact with others, the Holiday Participation Centre is working on affordable holiday offerings for all.

The tourism partners of the Centre consists of attractions, events, youth accommodations, holiday parks, hotels, guest rooms, chalets, caravans, cabins… in addition to organized children’s camps and holidays for families or single parents, etc.

It is critical that the social rates are only used by those for whom they are intended. Consequently, social organisations fulfil a fundamental role as intermediary. When screening, the European poverty level is used as the standard, but other factors, such as the costs for treating an illness, level of debt, the multicomplexity of poverty… are also taken into consideration.

Holidays are a right for all. Lowering the financial barrier is a good beginning, but not sufficient. Tourism Flanders aims to strengthen the lives of people living in poverty via holiday facilities. This gives them a grip on their own situation and surroundings. The Holiday Participation Centre finds a raison d’être in the stories that it hears, e.g. from a holidaymaker who finally finds the courage to deal with problems, couples who rediscover each other, families who leave their troubles behind.

A day trip or a holiday allows people to discover positive feelings that have remained hidden for too long. This positive energy is necessary, because it brings people into contact with other people and because it can break the isolation, generate new energy and make families stronger.

Social organisations know the people and are able to assess their situation. The social member organisations offer the holidaymaker among other things, support in filling in the forms and preparing for the holiday. Individuals and families in poverty can also make an individual application at the Holiday Participation Centre. Signing-up takes place over the internet, or through other ways of communication.

Some background on the Holiday Participation Centre
The Holiday Participation Centre was established in May 2001 by Tourism Flanders.
-    Activities
-    contributes to social tourism policy;
-    searches for tourism partners with a social vision;
-    engages in targeted promotion to persons with a low income;
-    organises training for social and tourism partners;
-    organises evaluation, consultation and exchange to optimise effectiveness;
-    investigates the international context and makes contacts.
-    Tourism partners
-    attractions, events, youth accommodations, holiday parks, hotels, guest rooms, chalets, caravans, cabins, etc.;
-    organised children's camps or holidays for families or single parents, etc.    
-    Holidaymakers
-    alone, in a group, organised by themselves or registered for an organised holiday;
-    from 0 to 99 years of age.
-    Social member organisations and contact centres
950 member organisations of all different guises, such as welfare centres, Welzijnsschakels (volunteer groups working to combat poverty and social exclusion), social services (OCMWs), family guidance services, VAWs, neighbourhood centres, all focused on an underprivileged target group (see p. 82).

Holiday Participation: four pillars
-    Day trips
Day trips represent a low barrier. It is often easier to save for a day trip then for a holiday of several days. For some people, one day is a good start to overcoming the holiday barrier.

-    Group holidays and group stays
Those who have never been on a holiday can take a first step in a group. Not being alone and having a safe group to fall back on often makes it easier to relax. More than 200 group accommodations have an offering for people with a low income. The social organisations themselves organise the group holidays.

-    Organised holidays
It is also possible to register for a fully organised holiday. More than 100 holidays are offered at a social rate by intermediary organisations (social tourism associations), youth work, sport and other leisure organisation. The reactions to these holidays have been unanimously positive to date.

-    Individual holidays
Alone on holiday, with friends or with the family, in a hotel or a holiday home, the individual holiday offerings are very diverse. Something for everyone wishes. Request for a holiday accommodation are handled by the staff of the Holiday Participation Centre. It is an intensive and personal approach that is highly appreciated.