Monday, 19 April 2010

Foreign holidays as a Right

According to the Times:

‘An overseas holiday used to be thought of as a reward for a year’s hard work. Now Brussels has declared that tourism is a human right and pensioners, youths and those too poor to afford it should have their travel subsidised by the taxpayer’. The European Union commissioner for enterprise and industry, Antonio Tajani, is reported to have said, “Travelling for tourism today is a right.”

There has been a massive increase in low-cost flying based on cheap aviation fuel. If airlines had to pay a similar amount of tax, as motorists pay to drive their cars, then the mass aviation market would be forced to contract. Instead of curbing unsustainable aviation, the EU is seeking to expand tourism (presumably on cheap flights) to the poorest members of society. The aims are laudable: to encourage a sense of European identity by understanding other countries within the union; but what has happened to the idea of reducing the carbon impact of our holidays?

For now we are enjoying clear blue skies in southern England for the first time that I can remember. This has been courtesy of the ban on flights in response to the risk of volcanic ash thrown out by the volcanic eruption in Iceland. The skies are free of vapour trails and high cloud generated by aircraft. We have just has a very quiet and sunny evening meal in the garden.

We should reflect whether the time has come to charge the full environmental cost of flying. The EU would have to think again about its budget for tourism for the poor and disadvantaged. We might then observe exchanges taking place between adjacent countries to allow people to travel sustainably and engage with neighbouring societies. This would be a more useful way to give the poor a taste of alternative culture than further subsidies on flying.

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