AS I SEE IT: Sunseekers who can’t wait to get away could be storing up trouble, says TERRY MURDEN
Shocking, truly shocking. I’m not referring to the behaviour of Rangers fans, nor the alleged behaviour of the Premiership winning team. It’s holidaymakers. After a year of pledging to change the way we live, to seek out the ‘new normal and give the UK tourism industry a boost, tens of thousands of “desperate” holidaymakers couldn’t wait to join the airport queues and head to a foreign beach.
I keep hearing that word “desperate”. Good grief. Really? Holidays should be a “nice to have”, not treated as something that life depends upon.
Don’t get me wrong, I like a break like the next person, though I’ve not had a holiday since 2018 and I’m old enough to remember when a fortnight away was indeed a huge treat. Once a year. I grew up during a time when a week or 10 days in Scarborough was the norm and a trip to Newquay was regarded as exotic.
Now there are folk who haven’t been on holiday if it has not meant three weeks climbing the Torres del Paine mountains in southern Chile or a trek through a hidden jungle. They are hopping on and off planes every other weekend, including those claiming to be concerned about the climate and the travel industry’s culpability in spreading the coronavirus. Despite warnings from Number 10, dozens of flights left UK airports this week for ‘amber list’ countries such as France, Spain and the United States. Never underestimate the public’s propensity for hypocrisy.
Airports and airlines are constantly demanding air passenger duty is cut or scrapped as it’s a barrier to travel. Really? Now people are prepared to pay hundreds pounds for Covid tests in order to guarantee their seat on the plane.
If we really want a ‘new normal’ in a year that also includes the COP26 climate conference (remember that?) then it’s time to start rethinking our priorities.
Of course the travel industry needs to be assured a future, but it must accept that it needs to manage decline. Industries contract (cotton, steam, coal, retail) as well as expand and the travel sector needs to stop expecting that it is entitled to continue growing.
Travel may good for the soul, good for trade, but unlimited travelling for its own sake has to stop. Is it necessary to book a stag-do in Prague rather than Perth? Or head off to some far-flung island just to add to the mythical bucket list? I read somewhere that to impress your friends on Instagram you need at least one palm tree in the photo. Pathetic.
We have got used to living under the discipline of limited contact and movement over the past year. We need to accept that the world has changed and apply that self-denial to our general way of life.
Employers and employees are already cutting back on their travel plans because Zoom and Teams have turned workers at all levels into virtual travellers and delegates, reducing the need to clog up the transport network.
If we are serious about the climate and managing Covid then as consumers we should be willing to do the same. If we are not prepared to do that then we might as well cancel COP26, ditch the climate commitments, accept the spread of Covid, and just party like none of it really matters. Oh, and book another holiday.
Terry Murden formerly held senior positions at The Sunday Times, The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and The Northern Echo and is now editor of Daily Business