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Travel is unlike other industries – it sells dreams

Travel is unlike other industries – it sells dreams

Running short of fresh entertainment? Down to your last box set? Unwilling to sign up for yet another expensive subscription service?

Allow me to suggest some free online, er, entertainment, courtesy of Parliament TV.

“I’m playing Lockdown Refund Bingo at the moment. I am owed money by a whole range of travel providers, including British Airways, easyJet, Ryanair, Tui, P&O Cruises and GWR – who at least had the decency to tell me they were working on the case.

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“The only number that’s come up so far is Premier Inn.”

Agreed, that sort of routine is unlikely to be syndicated any time soon, but I was doing my best. On Wednesday morning I found myself performing as the warm-up act for the great and good of the travel industry, in an online session of the Transport Select Committee.

During the shutdown of travel for anything remotely resembling the purposes of fun, MPs are considering the implications of coronavirus for transport and tourism: from short-term effects to long-term lessons.

Should you be summoned to appear before a select committee, be ready for something that feels like a mandatory job interview for a post you never applied for and really don’t want. And however well you prepare, expect an unexpected question.

Take Chris Loder, MP for West Dorset. Since his constituency is close to Exeter airport, home for the late-lamented Flybe, I had anticipated a question on whether Covid-19 was responsible for tipping the regional airline over the edge.

Instead: “Do you feel the airlines, in particular British Airways, in effect left British citizens abroad as a negotiating point to get government funding for commercial support to bring them home subsequently?”

While conspiracy theories have blossomed in this anxious atmosphere, that was a new one on me. “No, I’ve seen absolutely no evidence of that and I would imagine the airlines would deplore any such suggestion.”

But I did get a chance to say why action was needed to protect consumers who have seen their plans torn up.

Travel isn’t like other industries, I explained – it sells dreams. You commit your money months in advance and you take delivery only when you turn up at the airport.

“Therefore it is absolutely essential as a consumer to know that you are either going to get the trip you paid for, or you are going to get your money back.”

The parlous state of financial protection and the calamitous job losses in the travel industry inevitably cast a dark cloud over the parliamentary proceedings.

“What does the future of the travel industry look like after this pandemic,” asked Robert Largan MP.

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Winners of National Geographic Travel Photo Contest

1/11 Grand prize winner and 1st place: Cities

"Upernavik is a fishing village on a tiny island in west Greenland. Historically, Greenlandic buildings were painted different colors to indicate different functions, from red storefronts to blue fishermen’s homes—a useful distinction when the landscape is blanketed in snow. This photo was taken during my three-month, personal photo project to present life in Greenland."

Chu Weimin

2/11 1st place: Nature

"A gorgeous griffon vulture is seen soaring the skies in Monfrague National Park in Spain. How can anyone say vultures bring bad omens when looking at such tenderness in this griffon vulture's eyes? Vultures are important members of the environment, as they take care of recycling dead matter. Vultures are noble and majestic animals—kings of the skies. When looking at them flying, we should feel humbled and admire them."

Tamara Blazquez Haik

3/11 2nd place: Cities

"There are four runways at San Francisco's International Airport (SFO). This is a rare look at the approach end of runways 28 left and right. I had dreams of documenting the motion at SFO and arranged permission to fly directly overhead. What a windy day it was. Winds at SFO were 35-45 miles per hour, which meant a bumpy flight, and it was much harder to control the plane while photographing. The flight was challenging, but it was also so thrilling that I couldn't sleep for several days afterward."

Jassen Todorov

4/11 Honourable mention: People

"I captured this layered moment during sunrise along the banks of the Yamuna River in Delhi, India. This boy was thinking silently, and visitors were enjoying the loud musical chirping of thousands of seagulls. The early morning golden light from the east mixed with the western blue light, creating an ethereal atmosphere. I am a regular visitor here and have photographed this place for the past three years. Now, many national and international photographers have begun visiting too."

Navin Vatsa

5/11 Honourable mention: Nature

"A herd of ibex in Switzerland’s Bernese Oberland cross a ridge above Lake Brienz. Their powerful and impressive horns show who the king of the Alps are. Ibex are ideally adapted to live at dizzying heights. The continuing ridge path and the rising fog show the natural habitat of these animals. After a few hours of observing the animals, I spotted the ibex herd on one side of the ridge. Several ibex stopped at the transition to view the world around them."

Jonas Schafer

6/11 3rd place: People

"Every year on the feast of Saint Anthony the ceremony of the purification of animals, called Las Luminarias, is celebrated in Spain. In the province of Avila, horses and horsemen jump over bonfires in the ritual that has been maintained since the 18th century. The animals are not hurt, and it is a ritual that is repeated every year. To make the photo, I moved from Seville to San Bartolomé de Pinares because I am very interested in photographing ancestral rites."

Jose Antonio Zamora

7/11 2nd place: People

"This photo was taken at a public park at Choi Hung House in Hong Kong. When I visited during the afternoon, it was very crowded with many young people taking pictures and playing basketball. But when I visited at sunrise, it was quiet and a different place. The area is designated for neighborhood residents in the early morning, and there was a sacred atmosphere. I felt divinity when I saw an old man doing tai chi in the sun."

Yoshiki Fujiwara

8/11 3rd place: Nature

"Dusky dolphins often travel together in great numbers in the deep canyons of the Kaikoura, New Zealand in search of food. They glide through the ocean effortlessly, coming up only to breathe. Dusky dolphins are fast and will often keep pace with a speeding boat. I waited on the bow of the boat as the Dusky dolphin almost broke through the surface. Their elegance and streamlined bodies are built for speed and maneuverability—accentuated by the smooth, clear water of the New Zealand coastline."

Scott Portelli

9/11 2nd place: Nature

"What happens before a wave breaks? That question has been my assignment this past year. On this particular day, I decided to shoot the sunset on the east side of Oahu, Hawaii. About 100 photographers were out in the morning, but I had the evening to myself. The textures from the trade winds created subtle colors from the west and blended well using my 100mm lens. I had to look into my viewfinder while this wave was breaking. Not an easy task when a wave is about to crush you."

Danny Sepkowski

10/11 1st place: People

"Actors prepare for an evening opera performance in Licheng County, China. I spent the whole day with these actors from makeup to stage. I’m a freelance photographer, and the series “Cave Life" is a long-term project of mine. In China's Loess Plateau, local residents dig holes in the loess layer to create cave living spaces, known as yaodongs, and use the heat preservation properties to survive cold winters. This series mainly records the life, entertainment, belief, labor, and other daily scenes of the people living in the caves."

Huaifeng Li

11/11 3rd place: Cities

"People pray on the street in Dhaka, Bangladesh during Ijtema. Bishwa Ijtema is one of the major Islamic religious gatherings which is observed annually in Dhaka and millions of Muslims visit during this time. Dedicated prayer grounds are not large enough to handle this huge number of people, so large numbers of people come to Tongi, the main street of Dhaka. All the ground transportation and pedestrian crossings are suspended during that time."

Sandipani Chattopadhyay

1/11 Grand prize winner and 1st place: Cities

"Upernavik is a fishing village on a tiny island in west Greenland. Historically, Greenlandic buildings were painted different colors to indicate different functions, from red storefronts to blue fishermen’s homes—a useful distinction when the landscape is blanketed in snow. This photo was taken during my three-month, personal photo project to present life in Greenland."

Chu Weimin

2/11 1st place: Nature

"A gorgeous griffon vulture is seen soaring the skies in Monfrague National Park in Spain. How can anyone say vultures bring bad omens when looking at such tenderness in this griffon vulture's eyes? Vultures are important members of the environment, as they take care of recycling dead matter. Vultures are noble and majestic animals—kings of the skies. When looking at them flying, we should feel humbled and admire them."

Tamara Blazquez Haik

3/11 2nd place: Cities

"There are four runways at San Francisco's International Airport (SFO). This is a rare look at the approach end of runways 28 left and right. I had dreams of documenting the motion at SFO and arranged permission to fly directly overhead. What a windy day it was. Winds at SFO were 35-45 miles per hour, which meant a bumpy flight, and it was much harder to control the plane while photographing. The flight was challenging, but it was also so thrilling that I couldn't sleep for several days afterward."

Jassen Todorov

4/11 Honourable mention: People

"I captured this layered moment during sunrise along the banks of the Yamuna River in Delhi, India. This boy was thinking silently, and visitors were enjoying the loud musical chirping of thousands of seagulls. The early morning golden light from the east mixed with the western blue light, creating an ethereal atmosphere. I am a regular visitor here and have photographed this place for the past three years. Now, many national and international photographers have begun visiting too."

Navin Vatsa

5/11 Honourable mention: Nature

"A herd of ibex in Switzerland’s Bernese Oberland cross a ridge above Lake Brienz. Their powerful and impressive horns show who the king of the Alps are. Ibex are ideally adapted to live at dizzying heights. The continuing ridge path and the rising fog show the natural habitat of these animals. After a few hours of observing the animals, I spotted the ibex herd on one side of the ridge. Several ibex stopped at the transition to view the world around them."

Jonas Schafer

6/11 3rd place: People

"Every year on the feast of Saint Anthony the ceremony of the purification of animals, called Las Luminarias, is celebrated in Spain. In the province of Avila, horses and horsemen jump over bonfires in the ritual that has been maintained since the 18th century. The animals are not hurt, and it is a ritual that is repeated every year. To make the photo, I moved from Seville to San Bartolomé de Pinares because I am very interested in photographing ancestral rites."

Jose Antonio Zamora

7/11 2nd place: People

"This photo was taken at a public park at Choi Hung House in Hong Kong. When I visited during the afternoon, it was very crowded with many young people taking pictures and playing basketball. But when I visited at sunrise, it was quiet and a different place. The area is designated for neighborhood residents in the early morning, and there was a sacred atmosphere. I felt divinity when I saw an old man doing tai chi in the sun."

Yoshiki Fujiwara

8/11 3rd place: Nature

"Dusky dolphins often travel together in great numbers in the deep canyons of the Kaikoura, New Zealand in search of food. They glide through the ocean effortlessly, coming up only to breathe. Dusky dolphins are fast and will often keep pace with a speeding boat. I waited on the bow of the boat as the Dusky dolphin almost broke through the surface. Their elegance and streamlined bodies are built for speed and maneuverability—accentuated by the smooth, clear water of the New Zealand coastline."

Scott Portelli

9/11 2nd place: Nature

"What happens before a wave breaks? That question has been my assignment this past year. On this particular day, I decided to shoot the sunset on the east side of Oahu, Hawaii. About 100 photographers were out in the morning, but I had the evening to myself. The textures from the trade winds created subtle colors from the west and blended well using my 100mm lens. I had to look into my viewfinder while this wave was breaking. Not an easy task when a wave is about to crush you."

Danny Sepkowski

10/11 1st place: People

"Actors prepare for an evening opera performance in Licheng County, China. I spent the whole day with these actors from makeup to stage. I’m a freelance photographer, and the series “Cave Life" is a long-term project of mine. In China's Loess Plateau, local residents dig holes in the loess layer to create cave living spaces, known as yaodongs, and use the heat preservation properties to survive cold winters. This series mainly records the life, entertainment, belief, labor, and other daily scenes of the people living in the caves."

Huaifeng Li

11/11 3rd place: Cities

"People pray on the street in Dhaka, Bangladesh during Ijtema. Bishwa Ijtema is one of the major Islamic religious gatherings which is observed annually in Dhaka and millions of Muslims visit during this time. Dedicated prayer grounds are not large enough to handle this huge number of people, so large numbers of people come to Tongi, the main street of Dhaka. All the ground transportation and pedestrian crossings are suspended during that time."

Sandipani Chattopadhyay

Time for a silver lining.

“Humanity has shown over the years that we are adventurous, that we are curious, that we are restless – and that we want to go and explore the world.

“In the past 25 years, we have had wider horizons than ever.

“Tourism is an enormous force for good worldwide, because it tends to transfer wealth from richer countries to poorer countries and create millions of jobs.

“I have no doubt that, were we to reconvene in 10 years time, we would be talking hopefully about a more thoughtful travel industry, where the health of the planet gets a lot more respect.”

While they moved on, and I stayed where I have been since what feels like the dawn of time but was actually 23 March 2020.

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