A quick glance over the travel industry headlines this morning – the stand out story was that of my old colleague Simon Calder and the uproar created by his comments on BBC News, that it’s a buyer’s market and we should all be going on summer holiday for under £300.
The backlash I think came from travel agents who pointed out that this kind of unqualified headline is the sort of thing that encourages people to book, well, pretty crappy holidays… and then in turn fuels the resultant holidays-from-hell complaints media circus, which is a likely result of spending very little on something that matters a lot to us… our precious annual holiday.
When you put it like that, it all seems pretty obvious, but of course they don’t put it like that, do they.
You see, I know Simon a little. When I was Series Producer of BBC Holiday he presented lots of films for us and he was, hands down, the most knowledgeable travel brain among both the team and the presenters. He is also one of the most authentic and honest people in the travel genre and was rightly trusted to give opinion and guide the narrative of features, rather than merely be a presenter of the films we producers had scripted. But television and radio insist on short pithy sound-bites which will grab attention and give a moment of wow, or they are not considered news worthy. Simon knows that as much as do the producers who book him to appear as the travel pundit. Inevitably, this has an effect on the nature of the media that we consume.
It’s also worth noting that Simon is a true travel lover and I wonder if the details of luxury are less significant to him than the excitement and detail of the destination and the journey. I’m only guessing, but perhaps a £300 package using a less than impressive digs wouldn’t worry Simon in the same way that it might many holiday makers, as his focus is not so much on the hotel pool, and he’s more likely to be out sampling the authentic local eateries than filling up on the all-inclusive buffet. But that’s an aside and perhaps a baseless assumption…
… the real crux of this issue is this:
While an advert for loans that “cost only £xyz” etc must also be accompanied by that end bit of speed reading “subject-to-terms-and-conditions-the-value-of-loans-can-go-up-as-well-as-down-etc”… (pause to breath), there is no such regulation (for honesty through clarity) within the content of factual programming. So the sound-bite grabs our attention, and then there’s no rule which forces them to include the list of caveats, which illustrate this catchy on-liner failed to remind people that very cheap things are often a bit rubbish.
Perhaps there should be a similar rule applied to non-advertising content, which would make a statement like “package holidays can be bought for under £300” by regulation also be accompanied by a breathless end monologue of the nature “getting-flights-transfers-accommodation-and-atol-protection-for-under-£300-may-lead-to-a-less-than-spectacular-holiday-and-should-only-be-booked-if-you-don’t-mind-a-more-basic-standard-of-accommodation-and/or-catering-oh-and-this-price-is-only-available-from-two-regional-airports-with-a-catchment-area-of-one-twentieth-of-the-uk-and-departing-on-one-date”.
That certainly paints a different picture.
If it’s a more honest picture, do you think they should be held to that level of explanation?
If they had to add all that, and so make a much less interesting point for most of the UK viewers, do you think this piece would even have made it into the programme?