Kate Simon: Wish you were here – but don't expect a postcard anytime soon
Sunday 11 April 2010
Will you be sending any postcards from your holidays this year? I remember as a child having to spend at least one morning of our annual summer holiday writing "wish you were here" to the nearest and dearest – or risk no ice-creams for the rest of the day.
That's not a chore facing youngsters (or oldies) today. A few taps and a press of a button and you can Tweet your holiday greeting to the world, let alone to Granny, from your mobile phone.
Cumbria Tourism thinks it's a shame and has launched a campaign to "bring back the much-loved tradition of sending postcards". This from a tourist board so keen to use social networks (see About Britain, on this same page)? In fact, I first read about the initiative on Twitter @LakeDistrictPR. And where did I find out more? On the internet at wish youwereherecumbria.co.uk.
For the Cumbrians latest marketing ploy to get us all visiting the Lakes post-floods, they have taken their lead from a recent YouGov survey, which has revealed only 27 per cent of adults in the UK have sent a postcard in the past 12 months.
The Royal Mail confirms that although more than 130 million postcards are sent and received in the UK annually, that figure has remained fairly static for the past five years. The number jumped by about 30 million postcards five years ago, which the Royal Mail partly attributes to the growth of free postcards in bars and restaurants. But it acknowledges that the activity is generally in decline.
It's tempting to blame the internet for the move away from the handwritten word. But is this change also due to the fact that so many of us travel now and we're becoming blasé about holidays? Abta, the travel industry body, reckons 40 per cent of us take holidays abroad these days. I might have been reluctant to leave the beach to scribble those postcards on the seafront at Looe back in the Seventies, but I bet I still managed to convey a sense of excitement – because it would have been our only holiday of the year.
So perhaps the past is where postcards belong. I certainly wouldn't want to send one from a staycation in the UK – since the Royal Mail has adopted the confusing strategy of pricing different sizes and weights of post, I've developed an aversion to pillar boxes. And I won't be sending any messages home from my next trip abroad in a couple of weeks time – I'll be making the most of my chance to forget all about Britain while the dreary party politics of the general election are played out. It seems I'm not alone – 13 per cent of us seek a complete break in this way, according to YouGov.
So, nearest and dearest, it's not that I won't wish you were here, I'll just tell you all about it when I get home. Now, talking face to face – whatever happened to that?
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