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11 Sep 2015

BY Matthew Parsons

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Julia Lo Bue-Said: Remind holidaymakers that there’s life beyond the screen of their phone

Every now and again I’m reminded of the leading role the travel industry plays in creating an environment for building dreams and lifelong memories.

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A role of leading a generation into keeping the magic of holidays alive. I have just returned from my family holiday in Orlando, Florida. We’ve had a few family holidays there before, so I knew what to expect. I’ll admit that in the lead-up, I did start to reconsider whether I really wanted to spend two weeks trailblazing around theme parks. How would the kids cope without their access to information 24/7 and what would the Wi-Fi connection be like?

 

I have two boys aged 15 and 9. The teenager is going through “that” phase. The nine-year-old is full of spirit, into every electronic gadget he can lay his hands on. His favourite fictitious character is currently Saw (don’t ask).

 

He’s pretty uncompromising and very much a boy’s boy. As we visited our first theme park, I was taken aback by the reaction of my children. Filling me with goose bumps I realised that the park had turned them back into kids. For a few hours, gone were the gadgets, age barriers, inappropriate content and bickering.

 

Getting on that plane and now entering the land of magic had brought back my children. It made me think about our role as travel providers and how we are so much more than just the merchants of holidays. We provide an escapism; a form of counselling for families and a way to lead a generation into understanding the value that travelling brings with it. One day, we decided to head to Cocoa Beach.

 

I wasn’t too worried, semi-reassured by a local who insisted: “They won’t kill you, but they might mess you up.”

 

As ever, the ocean was full of surprises – unbeknown to us, the number of unprovoked shark attacks in the area had risen in recent times – and the boys spotted a shark cub in ankle deep water, prompting them to make a quick exit, narrowly avoiding an encounter with it.

 

I wasn’t too worried, semi-reassured by a local who insisted: “They won’t kill you, but they might mess you up.” But what an experience for the boys, one they could not have had from their mobile devices other than to watch a YouTube clip of it happening to someone else.

 

I believe we all have a role to play in leading a generation who have become accustomed to “experiencing” everything online, to sensing life outside of a mobile screen. How do we continue to fill their holidays with excitement and bewilderment? What type of holidays do we need to sell them to fulfil their expectations?

 

What do they want to achieve from their breaks away? As an industry, guardians and parents, it is our role to keep the magic of holidays alive – whether that’s in Florida, Greece or within the UK; we need to keep giving them special moments for them to remember for a lifetime.

 

Julia Lo Bue-Said is managing director at The Advantage Travel Partnership

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