OPINION - Rob Rinder: Holiday price gougers ruin trips for everyone — as I know all too well

 (Natasha Pszenicki)
(Natasha Pszenicki)

Well it’s a big birthday for me this week…  my 40th. In the interest of total accuracy, I should probably admit it won’t be the first time I’ve turned 40. I’ve slightly lost count, but I think this is my fourth go. I’ll probably stay this age till the 2050s, when I might turn an elegant 41. We’ll see.

But in order to celebrate properly, I thought I’d take a little birthday sojourn.  My friend suggested Copenhagen and I thought, ‘why not’? I love The Little Mermaid and those Danes can pickle a mean herring. It also occurred to me that I might find myself a nice man over there — some charming brute with a brain like Kierkegaard and a body like Mads Mikkelsen (circa 1990).

Rather like buying new-build homes,  one has to be careful about picking men. It’s not how they look when the new roof is freshly fixed that counts; it’s how they age that matters. My childhood mancrush and Danish International footballer, Jan Molby for instance was an architectural masterpiece but time has been unkind and it’s — sadly — too late for renovation.

When I went online to secure myself a ticket, I learnt that this short hop over the North Sea would cost me roughly the same as a flight to the moon. I scoured websites to find a booking that wouldn’t require me to sell my car, but there was no joy to be had. Not even on the orange airlines. This was some relief as the 40-plus VAT buffet of Scandinavian men in my league tend to be more Jan Molby than Viggo Mortensen.

But I couldn’t work out what’d happened — why had everything gone up so insanely?

The answer came when I spoke to my friends with children. Anyone who has seen my house of sharp edges and delicate objects knows I’ve no kids (my friend called my home “a cathedral to single gay man selfishness”). The fact that I have just one perfect dog-child (basically a pillow with eyes) means I don’t have to factor in the school calendar. So I had no idea that it was half term, and that every holiday — whether to Denmark, Djibouti or Dorset — had gone up massively as a consequence.

It’s an absolute outrage. And wildly unfair on families with school-age children. I get supply and demand economics (you don’t need to be Karl Marx or Milton Friedman to know that as demand increases, prices go up a bit), but the actual underlying costs aren’t changing.

To me, it looks like old-fashioned price gouging — and it’s worse when every household budget is being squeezed beyond breaking point.

An average family could once save up and go on a nice break. A vital chance to decompress, make happy memories and come back refreshed. But the eye-popping increase in prices during school holidays means a vacation is moving out of reach for any but the super-privileged.

It’s appalling: a trip away from home should be a treat, not an unachievable luxury. The Government should fix this. After two years of Covid, families deserve a holiday.

In other news...

I was invited along to the English National Opera last week. I’m a massive fan of what Stuart Murphy (formerly at Sky) has been doing there. He’s made it his mission to get top-quality music to everyone, and goodness, he is succeeding.

I went to see their new My Fair Lady and my jaw has never spent longer on the floor. I adore Audrey Hepburn in the 1964 movie (her singing voiced by the incomparable Marni Nixon), but Amara Okereke’s performance as Eliza Doolittle set a whole new standard — she’s the real deal.

There’s no clearer sign you’re seeing a truly great artist than when they take something you know incredibly well (or think you do) and make it new.  And when she sang I Could Have Danced All Night, it was like I was hearing it for the first time.

Absolutely go and see her if you can. It’s the best ticket in town.