Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Flying in the face of reality

I'm just back from my first holiday in a while, and intend to share some thoughts inspired by my travels soon, but first would like to share a press release from the NCC (National Consumer Council).

UK holidays are good for the environment but bad for the pocket

The NCC calls for collective action on climate change by urging government, business and regulators to address the domestic tourist industry and make UK destinations more attractive and better value for consumers.

As record numbers of Britons fly abroad, the NCC argues that far more could be done for climate change by making UK holidays better value, in particular by reversing the high costs of rail fares, accommodation and leisure facilities.

Despite the UK being hit by floods this summer, a new report reveals that many people think Britain is becoming warmer and a better place to spend holidays. Around one in three (32%) say they are prepared to switch future holiday plans to avoid flying. But, in the face of high costs and inertia, only one in twenty five (4%) do so. Examples emerging from research show that:

· Barcelona is cheaper than Blackpool. For example, the total cost of travel to Blackpool with accommodation in mid-August can work out more expensive than a similar trip to Barcelona. A return flight with seven nights’ accommodation costs £518. This compares to £554 for a return train ticket from London to Blackpool and a week’s accommodation.

· Planes are cheaper than trains. Seven in ten people have decided not to travel by train because of the cost of a ticket, according to fellow consumer organisation Passenger Focus. Only 40% of people who do travel on trains feel they are getting value for money. However, the vast majority (80%) would travel more on trains if the fares were a bit cheaper.

Ed Mayo, NCC Chief Executive said: ‘People are increasingly being asked to think before flying, but poor value at home means that this is a stick without a carrot.’

The NCC’s report: The Environmental Contract: How to harness public action on climate change

I couldn't agree more with almost all of this, but there are certain facts that cannot be escaped.

While my holiday was mainly to see relatives, it did coincide with being in a place that had sun, sea and sand.

Ignoring costs of travel and accommodation, the simple fact is that because of these factors (plus being happy with a $2 bowl of noodles for lunch), I sat in a deckchair for several days doing sod all (and spending same), while my kids played in the sea and made sandcastles. Sadly, in the UK each day of any holiday requires at least £100 to feed and entertain, sun out or not (more if not).

This is a simple matter of money. And a lot of it. And little here will change that, though many of the initiatives suggested will help. Along with global warming... if that is indeed what is going to happen. This summer has not bee the best evidence for this, though.

A holiday is about relaxing. Sitting in a wet tent seeing your bank account getting sucked dry hourly is not really going to do that. Sorry.

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