It is interesting to see how Covid has weaponised the tourism industry. I received an email recently from a travel agent offering a week in Sicily. My initial reaction was: “How?” Unless it is some kind of new all-inclusive deal by which you are rolled up in a carpet and hidden in a lorry so the customs people don’t find you, how would it be possible? Aren’t foreign holidays illegal at the moment?
The same goes for TV travel shows. In the Before Times, a holiday programme was a portal to let you know that – if you were careful with your money – you, too, could enjoy a fortnight of good food, cobbled streets and warm, jasmine-scented air. But what sort of ungodly masochist would watch a travel show in 2021?
With this in mind, I can only imagine Luxury Holidays: How to Get Away This Year (Channel 4) being watched by people who enjoy having their noses rubbed in excrement. From the off, stock footage of tropical islands, stilted beach huts and beautiful boats bobbing in perfect azure seas pummels the viewer. Rather than conjuring the tranquility of a beach, these images make me feel as though my blood pressure is surging. Listen, Channel 4, I have only just managed to condition myself to think that a trip to Tesco Express counts as an exotic getaway. How dare you start with this rubbish?
The format of Luxury Holidays is effectively Location, Location, Location, except about holidays. It is also entirely theoretical. Four holiday-mad families are shown a range of holidaying options by the host, Sabrina Grant, even though holidays are banned, all forms of commercial travel look hellish and there is a chance it will all be cancelled at an hour’s notice anyway.
The first family wants to stay in the UK, which is a start. Except that they aren’t allowed to go anywhere until April at the earliest – and that is only if cases don’t start to rise after the schools open. If that happens, they will be stuck where they are. But forget that, because rural Dorset looks nice. Except, you know, this past year has taught us that rural communities really don’t appreciate being stormed by an army of droplet-spreading idiots, so any holiday there is likely to be incredibly tense and hostile. But, hey, it is an option.
Or what about Longleat? You can soon stay there for £350 a night, whenever the restrictions lift, even though the accommodation hadn’t been finished at the time of filming. Poor Grant really tries to sell this one. “For me, a roll-top bath is the peak of luxury,” she shivers through a face mask in the middle of winter, while she looks at a photograph of a bath that a builder is holding up. I am no expert, but being pelted in the face with gravel probably feels more luxurious.
But we can still dream. Especially because travel insurance will cover every eventuality, right? Except, as the show quickly discovers, no policy covers everything. Some will cover you if you catch Covid abroad. Some will cover you if you catch Covid before you leave. Some will cover you if you are told to self-isolate. But nothing covers everything. So, you should probably just stay at home. We have come this far; better not to chance it.
“No way!” screams the show. Let’s go abroad instead! Sure, it is not possible, but it might be, one day, for some of us, provided that individual countries decide to welcome fully vaccinated British travellers – and possibly only then if they are prepared to spend £1,750 quarantining in a hotel room for 10 days upon their return.
What is the point of this show? Why bother making it? You can’t go on holiday now. You probably won’t be able to any time soon. This programme should be called Can You Go On Holiday? and it should just consist of the word “No” lingering on the screen for an hour, interrupted only by advertisers trying to distract us from the fact we can’t go on holiday.
Why not make a show about something equally impossible? What about Unrealistic Relationships: How to Marry Kathryn Hahn This Year, or Inedible Meals: How to Eat an Entire Blood Catamaran This Year? It would have precisely the same effect.