Initial thoughts on the traffic-light system
Writing the Q+A-style piece in today’s Metro about Boris and co’s proposed travel traffic-light system taught me two things: 1) it’s impossible to get a straight answer from the Department of Transport, and 2) overseas holidays are, alas, going to be a tremendous, pricey faff for the foreseeable. My inner conspiracy theorist suspects that’s deliberate; that the government is making it offputting in order to deter people and reduce the risk of variants.
Even for a ‘green-list’ destination, much bother is involved: arranging, correctly timing and paying for an overseas pre-departure test up to 72 hours before your return home (for each person); arranging, correctly timing and paying for a pricier-than-normal PCR within two days of your return (for each person); dealing with whatever similarly finickety entry demands – and the costs of these – your destination is imposing (for each person); and, all the while, hoping said destination doesn’t suddenly switch to amber status (despite the government’s new Green Watchlist, it says unexpected, immediate changes could still occur).
Apply that to the travel media world, and it’s tough to see many paid-for trips happening. On top of all the standard costs, is your client going to cover all the different tests and help to arrange the pre-departure one? Are they prepared to host a journalist in complimentary digs for a few more weeks if he/she fails that test – or will that be down to the journalist’s insurance? I doubt many travel journalists could or would pay for all of this – perhaps only staff writers who can expense it all and the wealthiest (or most want-away) freelancers.
From an editor’s perspective, I very much foresee pieces about green-list places – indeed, there have already been many articles about predicted green-list countries in newspaper travel sections. Most have been round-ups, however, and I doubt editors will be confident in commissioning a green-list destination first-person feature for fear of that land later earning amber status. I’d think it would need to be an irresistible angle, and have the guarantee of a very fast turn-around. Otherwise, lists or already-filed features must seem far safer bets.
Personally, if it was somewhere I really wanted to go, if I felt confident its traffic-light status was secure, and if the fee for my article(s) was more – or not substantially less – than the costs involved in making the journey, I would be willing to go to a green-list destination and share some of those fees with your client. That’s partly out of a desire to be reasonable and realistic, and partly out of pent-up desperation!
What Richard Thinks…