The Trouble with Travel Agents
The Trouble with Travel Agents
Imagine that you go to the travel agent's to buy a holiday. They sit
you down and smile a lot and show you what they have to offer. There's
a holiday to Torremolinos, including a bus tour and free chips. It's
priced within your budget but you don't want the bus tour and you'd
rather eat the local food.
"Ah," they say, "The bus tour's obligatory - all part of the package,
and there is no local food available in Torremolinos - not an option.
Perhaps you'd prefer this holiday!" And they show you a brochure for
the Costa del Sol. There are three obligatory bus-trips on this one,
but you get a portion of battered fish with your chips. It's all part
of the package. You ask about other holidays but there aren't any
available. There was one which a few people liked, also in Spain, but
it was more expensive, and as the demand was not so demanding it was
What do you do? Do you want to spend over a thousand pounds taking
your family on a holiday that they won't enjoy? No, so you go down the
high street to look for another travel agent. There aren't any. You
look in the Yellow Pages and discover there is only the one travel
agent in the whole town. Perhaps you decide to stay at home instead and
hope against hope for fine weather.
At the last election many voters decided to stay at home, hoping for
fine weather knowing that it would probably rain.
The travel agent doesn't bother with the hard sell. When you tell him
that neither of these holidays were what you had in mind, he tells you
that this is because you are foolish and don't know what's best for
you. He says that this holiday is exactly what you want, it's just
you're too stupid to understand the complex details. He knows better
than you and even shouts you down as you leave the shop.
There is more than one holiday available. There's a whole globe to be
toured. There are several continents, several destinations, and many
ways of getting to them. So you decide to make your own holiday. You
buy a rucksack and get hold of a travel timetable, look at a map and
start investigating the possibilities.
You're quietly getting on with all this when the travel agent turns up
and says that you are a threat to his business, that you have no right
to be experimenting with alternative holidays and your refusal to
conform to a majority decision, gives him the right to evict you from
your house, sack you from your job, lock you up in a detention centre,
surveil your every move, and shoot you dead if need be.
As soon as you are able, you mount a campaign to highlight the
misguided behaviour of this travel agent, to warn others of the dangers
posed by the travel agency itself. You make banners and buy a
megaphone, join up with others who've suffered similar experiences at
the hands of the travel agent (of which there are a surprisingly large
number) and suddenly the campaign begins to take off.
The travel agent is miffed. He and his friends in Spain were onto a
nice little earner with their obligatory bus tours and cheap food,
raking in profits and dancing to the dring of cash registers. Now they
see their whole livelihood under threat and decide to clamp down.
The thing is, they are better connected, better off and better
networked than you and your homeless, unemployed group. They start by
moaning to customers about the nuisance of vagrants begging outside the
shop, telling them on no account to give these scroungers money. Then
they persuade all those who are happy to holiday in Spain to let them
imprison the beggars.
Humanitarians, who object to this behaviour, join in with the protest
against the travel agents. The protest movement grows, becomes
increasingly sophisticated and arranges its own transport to the
world's major cities, where protests take place, outside travel agent's
Inside, one travel agent from each branch networks and plots to
improve profit. If everyone in the Southern hemisphere decided to eat
chips in Spain, how much richer the tourist industry would grow.
They've started selling their cheap package tours there, but those
silly people are distracted by their own problems; famine, disease and
cultural priorities. They need the hard sell.
The travel agents, now very rich and powerful, order their minions to
disperse the crowds protesting outside the meeting and these
hand-picked thugs relish an opportunity to finally play with all the
dangerous toys the travel agents have supplied them with.
A young man is shot dead in the violence that ensues.
"That's it!" The travel agents shriek throwing up their hands. "We've
been very patient. We must stop these freethinkers from voicing their
concerns. We must stop them gathering. We must stop them from
But it's too late. Word has already started to spread. Some of the
silent majority who had resigned themselves to the bus-tours, fish and
chips and Spanish building sites, have heard that there are other
holiday destinations. Some would like to hear more, discuss
possibilities, express a point of view. Others are afraid to in case
they are socially excluded too. They stick to stock phrases like "you
can't stand in the way of progress" and try to make the best of their