a man in a suit

I’ve been very fortunate throughout my career to feature in many places and share my thoughts on travel, rewards and technology. It’s a fun side element. Usually, my inputs are very brief — just a few words on a piece of breaking news, a new app, or some tips for people to get more out of their rewards. Fun times.

Today was different and amusing.

I was invited to do breakfast television in the UK with legendary presenters Eamonn Holmes OBE and Isabel Webster. The topic was virtually impossible to turn down: a government proposal from the team advising Ed Miliband, the UK’s Shadow Secretary of State for Climate and Net Zero to ban domestic flights and tax foreign holidays.

I am certainly not without opinion on the subject. I’ll happily defend thoughtful travel in any free media and what ensued was beyond my expectations for typical television debate.

First, The Appearance

The climate extremist, or as some in my family later called “nutter” went personal on the attack and shared true goals even more extreme than the initial premise above, such as banning foreign holidays all together in the UK. I didn’t know the country was willing to entertain making its citizens live in a penal colony. They kinda tried that…

Ridiculous Claim #1: Miles And Travel Rewards Are Only For The Rich

Right from the jump, this wasn’t going to be pretty. The only thing “frequent flyer miles” are guilty of is being a misnomer in 2023. Really, miles or points all fall into the scope of rewards — and rewards are among the most democratizing and equalizing tools in our society. They help salaries go further!

A person with limited income can take the same trip as a person with endless income by earning rewards from their daily spending. Rewards have given people who may not otherwise easily be able to travel the financial boost to make well needed rest, mental health and family breaks a reality.

Furthermore, airlines often make seats they don’t truly believe will be sold with cash available using miles. People booking with miles, particularly at the last minute, are actually helping to make each journey more efficient.

Ridiculous Claim #2: The UK Should Ban Foreign Holidays

“what we should be doing is holidaying at home”. This was an unbelievable case of yet another unelected non-official person attempting to make rules for the greater public and take away freedom of choice.

He genuinely believes Brits should not be allowed to travel abroad. I’m sure there are a few pubs in Gran Canaria or Ibiza that feel that way, but that’s a different story for a different day.

Never mind that it’s already a perfectly acceptable choice to not travel at all, or to travel domestically in the UK, this person wants to simply ban foreign holidays or tax them so much that it makes them unaffordable for the hardest working people who arguably deserve them most. I’m thinking NHS workers!

This would essentially create this weird dystopian world for the UK, where people from everywhere else can visit, but people in the UK can’t leave. I don’t like the preview!

I’d also argue that traveling to see some of the world’s most precious natural sights, delights, cuisines or other ways of life is among the healthiest things one can do. I care more about taking practical steps to protect resources and reduce, reuse and recycle because of my travels. Travel creates awareness and often, empathy.

a man and woman sitting at a desk

Ridiculous Claim #3: The UK Loses £24BN Annually On Tourism

First, this is just flat out wrong, whoever you use to do your fact checking. I’ve pulled mine from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), Visit Britain and Statista for a solid comparison. The UK brings in upward of £214 billion to £237 billion per year in travel and tourism revenue.

Unlike many countries, the UK has also actually done an amazing job at creating interest outside of one location as well. Brits spent circa £58 billion abroad in the same year, creating a mammoth tourism net gain. Tourism also accounts for 1.4 million jobs!

Ask the people of Wrexham, or any of the Game Of Thrones filming locations how much benefit they’ve received from tourism, it’s quite literally in the billions. I’m not even mentioning Ted Lasso because it’s London…

Ridiculous Claim #4: Banning Domestic Flights Would Help The UK

Ed Milliband, the UK’s Shadow Secretary Of State For Climate Change and namely his team have pushed to ban domestic flights in the UK.

I understand the desire to push people to more climate efficient rail, but the UK is an island, the rail here is nowhere near as good as Europe and for a country desperate to retain jobs and attract new business that’s a truly horrible idea.

Right now people can easily connect on from London to Scotland, Northern Ireland, Manchester, Cornwall and more, with flight times under 45 minutes. Removing these links would bring journey times of 5 hours at a minimum and in many cases, overnight trips or 9+ hours.

Rail in the UK has quite added up. Often subsidized and almost always overpriced, UK rail is not remotely apples to apples with France or Germany, nor is it particularly very competitive. Removing competition would only stymie further innovation in experience and price.

The UK constantly harps on a need to create business hubs outside of London and a place no one can reach is not going to be that. If you want to see tourism continue to be distributed widely in the country and business along with it, you need reliable and affordable connectivity.

Rather Than Listen To The Will Of The People, This Person Wants To Remove Choice

People currently have a breadth of choices with travel. Stay home, stay domestic, jet off abroad, long trip, short trip, eco friendly trip, you name it.

I believe we have a world worth saving and when there are initiatives that move the needle while maintaining societal freedoms to have choice and opportunity, I am open to making climate conscious choice.

Right now, there’s nothing to indicate that these people are simply loud extremists, because they’re certainly not winning any elections.

The Personal Attacks Were A Low Blow

I had very little interest in knowing who I would be debating for this segment. My opinions are about the issue, or lack thereof. My opponent, clearly did not feel the same way. This person took every opportunity to make “me” the issue and attack me personally.

Forget the desire to see family when they’re unwell, to show your kids beautiful places or to expand your economic prospects through work travel — this person wants the world to stay home forever and to be forced into vacationing domestically.

Basically, he wants to turn the UK into a penal colony that people can visit, but residents can’t leave. It sounds like a horrible movie plot. I hope he enjoys living off fermented cabbage and canning his farts for heat.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. Banning domestic trips is a proposal made by those who like central planning and who believes the central planner knows best. In reality, the central planner lacks life experiences of 50 million people.

    We see this even in local government when city council passes ordinances that cover one situation but ignore what is called “unintended consequences “.

    People should stop watching TV if it is unnecessary, like that interview.

    1. Not watching that interview saves electricity, which reduces climate change.

      Don’t wear studio TV makeup. Climate change is worsened because energy is used to manufacture that TV makeup.

  2. Thatcher wouldn’t stand for this nonsense, which Oxfam is promoting.

    Remember this next time you vote, and think about who you voted for in the past that enabled these fringe class extremist elements.

    The killer fact that should have been brought up is households are only 17% of UK emissions. Air travel is 2-3% of global emissions.

    Barking up the wrong tree and chasing pennies.

    Accept nuclear now, and start creating even better, cheaper alternatives that scale further to the developing world.

  3. Fucking Islington Idiots, living their champagne socialist lifestyles whilst trying to condemn the everyday person to servile similitudes

  4. I’m a frequent flyer myself, taking a multitude of TA trips, but it’s not a bad suggestion to tax excessive trips. What is deemed excessive? Hard to say and I’m sure one person’s excess is another’s norm.

    With that being said, the speaker on the right does make valid points in that the wealthy are traveling at a disproportionate rate than the average citizen–there’s no denying or getting around that fact. Does it make sense to tax air travel making it possibly harder for the average person who may get one or two flights/trips every few years? No. BUT…if you can find a reasonable taxation process, I wouldn’t be against it.

    But the ultimate solution would be to simply tax the wealthy on their wealth and on the tax loop holes taken, rather than these fringe approaches that may cause more harm to the average person.

    We have to be thankful for Rynair and other budget travel options that actually allow the average person the opportunity to travel.

    Gilbert, I think you didn’t go into this fairly; he had numbers and statistics to back things up. I would say as this topic becomes more of an issue to get some figures and numbers to have a fighting chance.

    1. Interesting thoughts. The problem is that this person is using false stats for virtually every metric and in this instance I found it better to make the bigger picture arguments than to debate a £100bn Gulf between his tourism stats and mine, which are backed by multiple (credible) sources. It was a bait I was not willing to take.

  5. I don’t know how you kept your cool. That guy is a complete joker. All of his arguments suck. He wants us to be getting about on horseback.

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