Experience in different countries
Mass holiday travel reflects new aspirations arising out of a higher level of economic and social development. Studies have shown that holidays away from home increase with urbanisations, with changes in social and occupational status and with rising living standards. Apart from custom, the possibility of staggering annual holidays is limited by three kinds of factors: (a) the climate of a country and the length of its summer; (b) the duration and timing of school holidays; (c) the need to maintain production, stocks and deliveries, etc.
The material available on six countries makes it clear that, while there is congestion of summer holidays, the extent and urgency of the problem varies from one country or region to another, depending on climate, town and country planning, school programmes, the needs, customs and tasks of the population, the way in which the economy is organised, etc. There is naturally a great difference between the position in Mediterranean countries which are large "producers" of tourist services and the more northerly countries which are predominantly consumers.
After France, which has already been described, Belgium seems to be the country with the least staggering of holidays. The main holiday period is in July and August when the weather is warmest, with shorter holiday periods at Christmas (two weeks) and Easter (10 days). Efforts have so far been directed to changing attitudes through publicity stressing the advantages of holidays in June and September from the point of view of cost, service and amenity, rather than towards staggering the closing of factories or school holidays.
In the Netherlands, the authorities have for some years been pursuing a policy aimed at relieving the congestion in July and August. The policy, which has had the full support of the trade unions, is to co-ordinate annual holidays with the school calendar. Primary school holidays start on the last Friday in June and last for six weeks. During this time, unmarried workers are not given leave, and married workers with children take their holidays (two weeks, as a rule) in one of three successive periods. This system has operated successfully because there has been close co-operation between parents and school authorities.
In Britain, the number of establishments closing down in July or August is not very great and workers therefore have greater choice in the timing of their annual holiday. Nevertheless, the concentration in those two months is very great, in view of the warmer weather, tradition, and the fact that the school holiday period in the summer is from late July to mid-September, which allows less spreading than in countries with a longer school holiday period.
In Sweden, tourism is confined to the winter resorts, and most of those who go away for their holiday take it abroad. Any staggering of holidays (in which the Government does not intervene) is the result of a transfer of holidays from summer to winter, rather than from spreading them over the summer months. In 1969, 26 per cent of the major enterprises reckoned on one week out of the four weeks of annual leave to be taken in the winter. As between a general close-down and close-down of plants in rotation, the great majority preferred a short, general close-down to a longer period of operating at less than full capacity. A study made of the country's big employers showed that only five used the rotation system, four of them using it for periods of up to six weeks. Among the firms closing down completely, the monthly percentages were as follows:
In the Federal Republic of Germany, there is less tendency for all workers to go away in July and August. One reason is that there is no season that is outstandingly favourable as regards the weather, and the enjoyment from a holiday is much the same at any time between mid-May and mid-October. Another is that the different states (Länder) in the Federation are responsible for fixing school holidays and consult each other, so that in practice there is a staggering of annual holidays by date and region, thus giving a fairly balanced distribution over the year.
In the United States there has been a clear trend in recent years for the annual vacations with pay laid down in 96 per cent of all collective agreements to become longer. The clauses normally provide for a system of staggering based on seniority. American experience is of particular interest because of the size of the country, the federal structure of states with their own laws and a great variety of climates (some with mild weather all the year round) and the mobility of the population. In addition, there is the role and influence of the trade unions, which operate mass tourist facilities on a large scale, especially in Florida and California. Whenever collective contracts come up for renewal, procedures for the summer closing of firms and the staggering of holidays are decided by agreement between unions and employers. The practice of sabbaticals, originally introduced in the teaching profession, and of long-service leave for highly skilled workers, further contributes to the spacing out of departures.
The combination of these different factors has brought about an automatic staggering of holidays, which is also made easier by the devolution of responsibility for education to local districts, which are able to make decisions in the light of the needs and interests of the local community.
To sum up, congestion at the time of the annual summer holidays is the result of three main factors: (a) preference for the warmest part of the year; (b) the timing of school holidays; (c) workplace arrangements. The first can be influenced by the development of leisure activities at other times, e.g. winter sports and other activities for which other seasons are at least as good. As regards the main school holidays, there seem to be two practices: (i) holidays of moderate length (e.g. seven weeks) starting at staggered dates, and (ii) longer school holidays (nine weeks or more) during which the parents' holidays can be staggered. As regards the third factor, the arrangements may be affected by the nature of production or services and by the proportion of married people in the workforce; where establishments cannot be kept going while part of the personnel is on holiday, the closedown periods may have to be staggered by inter-firm arrangements. These factors interact: for example, the longer annual leave periods now available to workers give more scope for taking the annual holiday by instalments, thus allowing more people to use the available holiday accommodation during the most favoured time of year.
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