I’ve been busy behind closed doors, stocked with black coffee and rice cakes, writing my next book, but I took a break to attend the World Travel Market yesterday, a place where tour operators, tourist boards and everyone and anyone to do with the travel industry sell and tell. It’s more like a world cattle market on certain days and there’s a lot of non news, but it’s always fun to look at the diary on route to Excel and see that I am visiting India, California, New York and Canada all in the space of a morning. I usually return with a few press releases but this year the ‘travel trends’ as originated by Euromonitor (I know it was Euromonitor as the presentation which lasted fifteen minutes mentioned them no less than fourteen times, sometimes three times in one sentence). This year I sat in the audience with my friend and colleague Alistair Mckenizie who edits the very useful website www.travel-lists.co.uk and listened to where we should all be going and what we would do when we got there in 2011. I write fictional novels and some of the stuff I heard would even stretch the imagination in even those books. I realise that every continent needs something to say and sell but it got really stupid this year.
The most farcical trend came from North America, which it usually does. Deprivation holidays are fashionable in North America. No I’m not talking stay-cations where we don’t have the money so we can’t go anywhere, we’re talking holidays for the very wealthy who have got tired of five star, being treated like the Gods they think they are, and want to cast themselves out into the wilderness and suffer like the rest of us, or even better suffer more than the rest of us. Sort of an extreme no pain, no gain. Low is the new high, and anyone wanting to feel the pain of being poor, has to pay a high price for going without. I suppose if you‘ve got a Catholic guilt thing about making loads of money illegitimately (they never think they do) and realising you’re still not happy despite the luxury lifestyle and perhaps a little bit of induced fasting and spiritualism to ‘get God’ or at least loose pounds is the way forward then I hope those who are marketing this holiday form to their wealthy wimps will make a mint and induce some sort of karmic retribution on the bankers, I mean punters. I’m not talking luxury boot camps (Euromonitor made this clear). I’m talking trekking across deserts and forests with little food and water, working in appalling conditions. Why don’t they just take a plane to Afghanistan and help our boys there? Why didn’t we just send them to Chile to help with the digging or Haiti or anywhere they can actually help with the suffering of others rather than getting a kick out of their own? I can’t quite work out if this idea is karmic, ironic, moronic, masochistic or just plain insulting to those who genuinely are deprived but the idea of ‘playing at being deprived’ is just plain patronising.
Another trend is Iraq. Forget France and Spain. Everyone should go to Iraq. Perhaps those who want to experience a deprivation holiday in North America should go to Iraq although I doubt Iraq wants to see any more Americans in their country even if they are willingly paying a lot of money to be beaten up and treated badly. (Wonder if Tony Blair will go on one of these deprivation holidays?)
In Africa there’s ‘space tourism’, as in looking up at it (astronomy) as opposed to going up in it, which at some stage ‘Africa’ wants to promote as well. Africa allegedly boasts some of the clearest skies in the world, so hotels are installing telescopes in their rooms. As I know many hotels have issues with towels, dressing gowns and toiletries being nicked, I don’t hold out much hope for the telescopes lasting long.
In Latin America, they’re trying to improve the roads (all infrastructure actually) and in Asia the only thing they’ve got to sell is what they call ‘the fragrance factor’, as everything is being scent branded. For example when you think of Holiday Inn you think citrus, green, floral, woods, bouquet. Personally I think Lenny Henry or is that another hotel chain?
And according to the survey on travel trends Europe is closed for business. We’re all skint, unless of course we’re very wealthy in which case we will be paying an awful lot of money to feel the pain somewhere very dangerous.
As for which nationalities are coming to the UK. Move over the wealthy Russians, we now have the wealthy Chinese, followed closely by the wealthy Indians. Although what they will find in Blightly will be largely owned by the wealthy Arabs who have bought up our real estate by then. I couldn’t make this up.