Interlude in Magaluf

I have lately neglected the ‘now and then’ aspect of this space, for which I apologise. But I can more than make amends by reporting on a recent visit to Majorca.

When friends heard I was heading for Magaluf, they made disparaging remarks, based on its reputation as a resort for the young and lively which I – far from young and certainly not as nimble – was unlikely to enjoy.   

I shall not dwell on that, other than to say that, very late one night, I took to the dance floor in what I was assured is one of the island’s hottest night spots and gave a good account of myself, according to onlookers. That they were ‘much farther into the evening’ than I may have clouded their judgement, but I am not complaining.

Magaluf - by Rafael Ortega Diaz via Wikimedia CommonsMy reason for being in Magaluf was very much ‘now and then’. A group of travel agents was holding its annual conference and, as they were also celebrating their fortieth anniversary, had asked me to tell them about what life in general, and the travel scene in particular, was like in 1977.

Now the likes of you and me can recall 1977, if only for the fact that it was the year Elvis Presley died (as did Bing Crosby and Maria Callas, if you wish to mourn lost voices). But my audience was divided, roughly, into those who weren’t even born, those who were in primary school, and a tiny handful old enough to remember that far back – but with difficulty.  

In 1977, one of BBC television’s top programmes was called ‘Come Dancing’, with regional teams in competition, displaying their Boston Two Steps, Valetas and Viennese waltzes in precise formation. It was all sequins and big hair, stilettos and puffball skirts, and not a celebrity in sight, unless you count the programme’s host – a newcomer to our screens by the name of Terry Wogan.

The space probes Voyagers One and Two were launched in 1977 – though, oddly enough, not in that order.   

And the first Star Wars film hit the screen.   

R2-D2 - Star Wars characterThe story goes that, after watching a print of the as-yet-unreleased epic, George Lucas’ wife begged him to destroy it, believing it to be so bad that it would ruin his reputation.  

As far as the world of travel was concerned, Freddie Laker’s Skytrain began a trans-Atlantic service on 26th September 1977, the fare from London to New York being £59. It was a ‘no frills’ deal, but you could pay extra for lunch on board. Pate, roast beef with veg., apple pie, cheese and biscuits and a half bottle of red wine cost £1.50, though history doesn’t record if Yorkshire puddings were included in the price.

And Concorde was finally given the go-ahead to fly the same route two months later, having been kept out by the opposition of the New York Port Authority – as dodgy a bunch of politicians as I have ever encountered. And I’ve encountered quite a few.

Now at this point you could be forgiven for thinking that nostalgia is fair enough, in moderation, but what have my ramblings got to do with the Silver Travel Advisor audience. After all, our task is to steer you towards first class holiday and travel experiences, based on the collective knowledge of our contributors.

Well, that’s where travel agents like those I encountered on Magaluf  come in. Independent experts who can give you the benefit of their knowledge and experience if you choose to pop in and have a chat with them.   

Laker Airways DC-10 by Eduard Marmet via Wikimedia CommonsBack in 1977, travel agents were the only folks with computer systems giving them access to the airlines and the hotels and the car hire companies and all the ingredients of a holiday abroad. The idea of everybody having the same sort of access and doing it for themselves was simply not on the cards. As, of course, was the concept of a site like Silver Travel Advisor.

But now it has become a reality, travel agents are ignored as people search online for d-i-y bargains. Which is a pity, because a knowledgeable local agent can be of tremendous help. I don’t see them as rivals or competitors to Silver Travel Advisor, but as folk who are trying to provide a similar service, and who are ideally placed to add a cherry or two to the holiday ‘cake’ you have selected or even created for yourself.

Many of these folk are members of groups like Elite – the folks in Magaluf – or Advantage, whose aim is, in part, to negotiate favourable terms which they can pass on to their customers.   

I’ve always had a lot of respect for independent local travel agents, and my trip to Magaluf supplied more proof that this respect is well founded – as well as reminding me what friendly and pleasant folk they are.

There was some friendly banter about the massive generation gap between me and most of that crowd. But, on at least one occasion, I did get the last laugh.   

Referring back to that first Star Wars film in 1977, I pointed out that John Williams wrote the score for it and every one of that profitable series, and is still going strong – at the age of 85.

So, friends, there’s hope for us all.

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John Carter

Long-time presenter of TV’s ‘Wish You Were Here’ and BBC holiday programmes

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