Number 39: A Holiday Broker
'You often hear people say that when it comes to holidays, the hardest bit is organising it all. They're wrong. The hardest bit is deciding where to go. That's where I come in. I tell them where to go. They can organise it after that.'
Arthur Tims calls himself a holiday broker, but that's only because it sounds nicer than calling himself a holiday dictator. He has stumbled across the truth that people can never agree on a perfect destination, and he has made money out of telling them where to go.
'Let's say you have a husband and wife who have been to Lanzarote for three years on the trot, and for some reason they can't pin down, they feel a bit resistant to going again. You or I would be able to see at a flash that the reason they don't want to go again is that they can't stand the place. Maybe they liked it the first time round and have grown up a bit since then. Maybe they only went in the first place because it was cheap, and now they can afford something better. But they keep going back because they once enjoyed it, and they can't admit to themselves that they've changed. Even if they do admit it, they don't know where to go now, because they've never been anywhere else.'
So what do they do?
'Come to me. Talk to me. Listen to me. Then go where I tell them.'
And where would that be ?
'Depends entirely on what kind of people they are. Maybe they're people who just want sun, but now want sun in a more expensive place. Maybe they're people who've always been led to believe that sun is what you need on holiday, but who actually need a bit of adventure, or culture, and don't realise it. Maybe - and this is where it gets interesting - maybe HE wants sun in a more expensive place and SHE wants a bit of culture, and they don't realise they're unhappy because they're pulling apart.'
So in that case would you recommend them to go to separate places?
'Don't be stupid. I'd recommend them to go to an up-market sunny place where there's lots of culture. Then they'll both be happy.'
So what you do is a sort of pre-holiday counselling?
'Sort of. Of course, you never tell them that. You're ostensibly just making decisions for them. But you're summing them up the whole time. Are they, for instance, getting socially upwardly mobile without realising it? It's the woman who shows signs of that first, by the way. Shall I send them somewhere a bit more up-market from their last place? Or are they socially mobile downwards…?'
Does that happen?
'Sure. Not long ago I had a very posh pair who were locked in an almighty argument about where to go. He wanted to go to Biarritz, for gambling and sun. She wanted to go to Scotland and do some water colour painting. They were both, basically, frightened of other people, so I sent them on a cruise liner, and they had a whale of a time, gambling, painting and meeting lots of new people. Got out a bit at last, you see.'
Cruise liner isn't exactly down-market, is it?
'Was for them.'
But surely most people know exactly where they want to go for their break?
'Of course they don't. Otherwise they wouldn't spend so long looking through Ceefax and Teletext for holiday offers. If a man can't make up his mind whether to go to Ibiza or the Gambia, which are two very different places, then it's because he doesn't know his own mind. Look, very often you can see that a person is dressed wrongly - a woman with fat legs wearing shorts, a tall thin man in clothes that make him look like a scarecrow - and you suddenly realise that they've been dressing wrong all their lives. Well, if you can get your own clothes wrong, you can easily get your own holidays wrong. It's easier to see from outside what's going wrong. That's what I'm for.'
Arthur Tims, holiday broker, where do YOU go for your holidays?
'Er, the Scilly Isles, usually,' says Arthur Tims, avoiding our eye for the first time.
Why the Scilly Isles?
'Wife likes it,' he says. 'It was her childhood holiday place. Still goes there. Loves it.'
And do YOU enjoy going there, Arthur Tims?
'Good heavens, is that the time?' says Arthur Tims. 'Must dash.'
The Independent Tuesday July 7 1998