I find myself unable to allow this week’s revelation [or should we say ‘news story inspired by telly PR people’] that Kirsty Allsop ( @KirstieMAllsopp for twitter folk) is to turn her critical eye on travel firms for a new TV show pass without comment.
Normally I like Kirsty. That Location, Location stuff is interesting and I accept that she probably knows more about property purchasing than I do. Fair’s fair.
But I’ve worked for and with travel firms for the last seven years and so I would hope I’m slightly (not much, but slightly) better informed on the subject of the British travel industry.
Apparently, says Kirsty, tour operators are shamelessly ripping off consumers everywhere by, wait for it, ‘putting up prices in the summer’.
Shock. Yes, it’s that old chestnut again. The story that never dies is back, this time with the added backing of the posh, privileged daughter of a baron who wouldn’t know Alicante if it bit her on the backside.
I’ve got a few issues with this new Channel 4 ‘expose’ – catchily titled Kirstie & Phil: Holidays Uncovered, in case you are at a loose end next January. But where to start?
From a communications point of view, it really is astonishing that such a programme could even get commissioned. After all, the same old story is recycled by Fleet Street every year, so why has it never been killed with a well-managed PR campaign from the industry that just presents the truth about holiday pricing?
As a number of travel bosses explain every day, week, month and year in the travel industry trade publications (such as the excellent Travel Weekly), the idea of customers being ripped of is frankly ludicrous. The vast majority of travel firms work on paper-thin margins.
Simple supply and demand dictates that prices have to rise in the holiday season – there is a limited number of hotel rooms, flights and camp sites for people to use. It’s the same reason turkey’s are more expensive at Christmas and roses are more expensive on Valentine’s Day. The truth is that it’s less about hiking up prices during summer, and more about the fact that travel companies have to discount so heavily the rest of the year that they’re lucky if they break even, let alone make a profit.
You’d have thought the basic concept behind capitalism is something Kirsty understands, seeing as she has been an advisor to the Conservative Party and got famous by reveling in the rampant house price inflation of recent years.
And let’s be honest. Often the poorer quality products exposed by the numerous other ‘holiday hell’ TV shows are a direct result of hoteliers and travel firms not being able to afford to invest in infrastructure.
Why? Because people pay low prices. The travel industry has started to get its act together when it comes to explaining consumer protection. Recent expensive airline and tour operator failures have meant operators can now push the benefits of bonding. The industry is starting to stand up for itself, especially over pricing and the importance of travelling with ABTA-bonded holiday companies.
So maybe Kirsty can concentrate on honing her presenting somewhere else – perhaps improving on the spectacularly average (and no doubt expensive) performance at last year’s Travel Weekly Globes..?
Just a thought Kirsty, just a thought.