Luxury versus budget travel

Newsflash: Once upon a time, travelling for pleasure was something people actually did. As we reminisce during a pandemic, our holiday plans have either been totally destroyed or at least, delayed. 

I refuse to beat around the bush. Covid-19 has seismically affected travel providers. Not only are travellers spending less on exotic getaways to faraway lands, but our realigned health consciousness has profoundly affected how, when and where we travel. 

At a turbulent time of layoffs and furloughs, travellers are looking to spend on experiences that are safe, closer to home and reasonably priced. Covid-19 has thus helped to reaffirm the trend for budget travelling, whilst seemingly making us feel better about ourselves. 

Fair enough, but not always. Yes, travelling first class to the most expensive resort on the planet is out of the price range for most folks. And yet does that make it completely outrageous? Surely the odd treat now and then – opening the champagne cork mid flight for example – is perfectly permissible, especially after months of an enforced lockdown. 

Economy class quite evidently lacks the luxury of first. For those able and willing to pay a little more – ok, a lot more –  one avoids the dry bricks of bread, crying toddlers and only enough leg room to wiggle your toes. Instead, you get your own motorized mini-bar stocked with water and soft drinks, a pop-up vanity mirror stocked with trendy skincare products, the best in flight entertainment and pretty much unlimited cabin crew services. And the food is served a la carte, code for we guarantee the bread isn’t stale.

I can hear your mind screaming: who needs that? My answer? No one. And not even the Queen. First class is inaccessible to most people, the experience itself filled with bizarre add-ons and constant pampering that are plainly annoying and far from blissful. Strangely enough, the simple things in life can often bring far more happiness than a 3 course meal on a flight to Barbados. Gasp. 

Budget traveling benefits those looking to save money. Issues surrounding the accessibility of travel is also worth noting here, both monetarily as well as physically. In 2005, this reality motivated businessman GR Gopinath to announce he would enable Indians to fly at one rupee or less than a pence, thus revolutionising flying in India by breaking class and economic barriers. 

Authenticity matters too. The pervading idea suggests splashing the cash on pricey hotels and extravagant meals – kills away the supposed cultural truthness of a given location, leaving a barrage of fancy fakeness in its lieu. However expensive treats can be rather authentic. 

For example, guests staying at the Ka’ana Resort in Belize can learn to prepare classic Maya dishes using an authentic Maya stove, known as the forgon. Holiday makers at the Hotel St Petersbourg in Tallinn can enjoy Estonian cuisine in the hotel’s restaurant, The Golden Piglet Inn, with recipes that have been passed down through generations. Impressive stuff, right? And arguably more ‘authentic’ than cheaper options on the touristy streets. 

Cheaper things are by no means inferior. In fact, cheaper options are often extremely authentic. Greek taverns – or other family run establishments in a similar mould – are locally run and the food tends to be sourced locally. The best part is one meets local people, the very people providing the goods and making the culture what it is. Travelling on a budget means visiting local markets, buying souvenirs made by the sellers themselves. 

In this way, the benefits are mutually felt by both locals and tourists, helping to foster much clearer understanding of different cultures as well as building a layer of trust between natives and visitors. With this in mind, neither luxury nor budget travelling is clearly definable as better or worse than the other. 

Bluntly speaking, the ability to travel luxury is something we cannot and must not take for granted. And yet even in this world of tighter budgets and ongoing safety concerns, travelling can still be a whole lotta fun. And soon, even possible.


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Sam Gordon Webb

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September 2021
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