Why is it so many people aspire to fly in First Class, sleep in Five Star hotels (or even Seven Star hotels) and eat in Michelin Three Star restaurants? Don’t they know that it is very poor value for money? That you can sleep just as well in a £29 per night room as a £2900 per night room? That the carbon footprint of a seat in First Class is at least double that of one in Standard?
I don’t know whether anyone has researched the psychology of luxury travel, but studies undertaken for luxury brands, found that someone buying a handbag for $50,000 is saying ” I have so much money that I can afford to waste it”. The message being “I am a winner” and if you mate with me, our offspring will have a great chance of promulgating our genes also. Or to sum it up in one word “Sex”.
It goes deep into the contemporary psyche. Role models are chosen for their looks and the brands and fashion ideals they endorse. Their values or contribution to making the world a better place seem to count for little. School children not sporting the right logos, must either conform or be bullied. This is worse than the secret police in a Cold War Era Eastern European country, making life a misery for anyone not toeing the party line. Combine this with incessant advertising from TV, film, computer games and even by stealth through their social media accounts and our youth don’t stand a chance. It is no wonder that many believe that being someone is a matter of having the right logos on their clothes, cars, hotel chain or airline.
But is travel like a Hermes handbag? Do extravagant purchases define us as someone successful? Is a tan in the middle of winter a status symbol to wear with pride? Does taking regular flights make you a member of the “Jet Set”?
In Europe since the 1950’s the cost of flying, encouraged by lenient taxation, nose-dived. Spain was suddenly affordable and millions flocked there returning with a tan, donkeys wearing sombreros and other ornaments proudly displayed in the home to demonstrate that here is a person “well-travelled”. But then the Jones’ had to go on that trip to Florida and Disneyland! To keep up with them, a trip to the Maldives was a “must do” for the following year, even if it meant getting into debt. Does this explain why cruises to the Antarctic are now in vogue?
I’ve raised a lot of questions in this post. I don’t have answers to most of them. However, in a world of limited resources and Climate Change, it matters not only how much we travel, but how we travel. If a backpacker hiking for a year has a smaller ecological footprint than someone flying 2,000 miles to stay at a Seven Star Hotel for a week, surely these questions are important?
If it really all does boil down to sex, why are our planetary life support systems getting screwed instead?