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Having turned down the opportunity to work with ITV's recent Travel Guides, Dubai Tourism's Ian Scott says it's time to get back to informative as well as entertaining shows
Travel companies spend a significant amount of advertising money on TV. It gives brands what we call reach – access to millions of viewers typically, with a 30-second ‘spot’.
And it’s by no means cheap, especially if you buy on ITV during the peak viewing hours of 9pm to 10pm. Getting good prime-time TV exposure for free is the dream of any PR agency, but that is a very rare thing.
So when I got a call from ITV to talk about a peak-time, hour-long show dedicated to Dubai in a new series called Travel Guides, my mind wandered back to evenings with my parents watching Wish You Were Here...? and Whicker’s World. Judith and Alan were compulsory viewing back then.
Of course, those shows ended many years ago, and people today have endless resources at their disposal when it comes to researching potential holiday destinations.
However, TV really can bring a destination to life. Just look at the extraordinary TV shows fronted by the likes of Joanna Lumley and Simon Reeve, who expertly explore off-the-beaten-track destinations.
The wrong type of exposure
So, I thought, perhaps a prime-time, mainstream and impartial travel advice show was coming back to our TV screens? Sadly not.
It was clear from the synopsis that I received several months ago that Travel Guides would be about the people on the show, not the places they visited, so I decided not to assist them.
It was always destined to be a Gogglebox-style view into the world of people who had no control over where they went and what they experienced, regardless of their holiday needs. The fact ITV made an entertainment show filmed in four great destinations is not my issue.
It’s the fact there is a dearth of informative TV journalism at our disposal. Had any of those holidaymakers talked about their holiday needs with an agent would they have been sold a holiday to Dubai?
Probably not, which is perhaps the very reason ITV sent them there. But more importantly, would anyone at home watching, hoping to get some insight into the destination for a possible future visit, have benefited from the content? Again, probably not.
The ideal TV travel show
While I do miss those old travel shows, we now live in an age of peer-to-peer recommendations, so in my opinion, there is a new broadcast opportunity for our industry.
ITV, of course, had its own agenda with Travel Guides. But wouldn’t it be great to have a destination show that involved and starred real people and real agents?
A show that followed travellers, whether it be a family, a couple, single person or a group, through their booking process, from research and discussion at home, through to speaking to an agent who has destination experience, right through to their honest review at the end of the trip?
A reality TV show that informs, educates and inspires, as well as entertains.
That kind of TV exposure for the destination, as well as for the trusted and experienced agent, along with the social media that could potentially surround it, would be of a genuine benefit to our industry, in a way that Travel Guides was never going to be.
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