A scheme which has given 1,100 vulnerable families, including 2,369 children, a “life-changing” short break in Scotland has been hailed by tourism industry bosses.

Established in 2016, the ScotSpirit Breaks initiative is a nationwide social tourism project coordinated by VisitScotland and the Family Holiday Association charity.

The national tourism organisation said the scheme is transforming Scottish tourism, and has involved more than 100 industry partners, including accommodation, transport providers and attractions.

The International Social Tourism Organisation defines social tourism as “any activities contributing, in a fair and sustainable way, to a greater access to holidays and tourism activities for everyone”.

In addition to supporting vulnerable families, social tourism can have a positive impact on domestic tourism numbers, helping address seasonality and supporting local year-round employment.

It is estimated that more than one in three families in Scotland are unable to take a break – due to cost, ill-health, caring responsibilities or a lack of confidence.

Fiona Hyslop, tourism cabinet secretary, said: “ScotSpirit Breaks is a hugely beneficial initiative that is giving disadvantaged families the opportunity to enjoy time away together for a much-needed break.

“The partnership working across the tourism sector to make ScotSpirit Breaks possible, demonstrates a generosity and inclusivity that the Scottish tourism sector can be proud of.”

Malcolm Roughead, VisitScotland chief executive, added: “Ever since 2016, when we teamed up with the Family Holiday Association, the response has been amazing, and we remain committed to continuing the initiative and engage with more families and industry partners across Scotland.”

John Kinnear, FHA head of programmes, commented: “Giving struggling Scottish families the chance to be tourists in their own country makes a massive difference, broadening horizons and highlighting the fantastic opportunities on offer.”