Belfast Telegraph

Don't scoff at package holidays, they're the real deal

By Harriet Walker

At the risk of sounding facile, I think we all need a holiday. Just one day out of life, as Madonna has it, to decompress and condense some of the steam of frustration.

In a culture that foregrounds 24-7 working hours and the need to accrue wealth rather than borrow time, the universal bank holidays and bus trips to the seaside of yesteryear have become an idyllic anachronism.

But so, too, have the stretched recesses and Grand Tour-style breaks at the other end of the spectrum. We have accepted the death of the latter, without questioning the validity of the former.

Thomas Cook has announced that almost half of its profits this year came from all-inclusive holidays, which have gone through the roof as holidaymakers seek better value. But there's a general culture of 'ick' when it comes to these kinds deals and a crazed sense of moral superiority among those who don't go on them.

Instead of travel for the sake of getting away and forgetting one's workaday existence, we're supposed to travel now for the sake of becoming more worldly-wise.

This makes sense when one is backpacking in the Himalayas; less so than when you just want to lie on a beach in Torremolinos.

There's nothing wrong with going somewhere pleasant and doing very little.

It makes us less crabby when we get back, it helps us put up with a world where everything just seems - at the moment, at least - to be that little bit harder. And if a week in the sun and five pitchers of sangria are going to help, then why on earth not?

You can see it in people's eyes at the moment, on public transport and in the queue at the supermarket; those about to go on holiday and those just back. The former are snarling zombies; the latter beacons of tolerance.

Channel 4's new Holiday Hijack programme has the usual veterans of all-inclusive hotel compounds being exported to stay with local families so they can taste the real culture of the countries they're in. Unsurprisingly, most say they'd rather go back to their five-star compounds.

Rather than feeling that this displays Western disgustingness, I nod along vigorously with them.

You can worry about the world going to hell in a handcart when you get back; holidays are for disconnecting.

They make people more content. And content people don't burn down their local high street.

Some more worthy members of our society may want to help at the local fish market or build schools but I'd argue that they are in the minority.

It isn't always to the detriment of local cultures, either. Package dollars can create employment, and development rather than sapping the life out of a community.

So maybe it's no bad thing that more of us go on all-inclusive deals. Anything to boost morale, productivity and social cohesion mightn't be a bad thing right now.

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