A top Cardiff lecturer has attacked the travel industry for its sexist attitudes to women dreamt up by Mad Men-style advertising agencies.
In a lecture tonight, Professor Annette Pritchard of the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff, will accuse the industry of “sexualisation and objectification” of women.
According to the academic, travel brochures, TV shows and glossy magazines are all guilty of using the female body to sell their wares to customers – with airlines often the worst offenders.
Examples she will cite include a banned Ryan Air advert that showed an image of a sexually provocative woman in a schoolgirl’s uniform with the headline, “Hottest Back to School Fares”.
But travel brochures also share some of the blame.
“In their adverts men are active, swimming or cycling, while women are always passive, they sit by the pool reading a book. They just decorate the picture,” said the Uwic professor.
“They present a uniform view of what a tourist is.
“What if you are black, overweight or older? Where do you fit in?
“We like to think these days that we are immune to such advertising, but the rate at which we snap up these products proves that we are not.
“Everywhere you look in tourism media – whether it is holiday brochures, TV adverts, travel programmes or exposes – women are sexualised.
“Our interest in the body has grown in the past few years and it has spawned a whole industry. As soon as summer looms women’s magazines are full of dieting tips for ‘that perfect beach body’.”
Prof Pritchard also exposes the sexism prevalent in the advertising industry where the creative brains employed by firms are still overwhelmingly male.
She said: “Travel adverts reflect the masculine and macho environment in advertising firms. These firms base themselves in global cities like London, Sydney and New York and the creative roles are almost always held by men.
“It has always been the same, many men in the advertising industry live up the stereotypes, no wonder advertising is so laddish.”
Cowbridge travel agent Sam Smith, who owns Sam Smith Travel, disagreed with the academic’s claims that the industry objectifies women. He said he believed the industry had learned its lessons and was now far less sexist.
He said: “Not many of the brochures we use have models on the front as they used to do.
“Any brochure you picked up had a scantily clad bikini model on it but nowadays they have scenic pictures.
“And the only advertising we do is for our sports travel section, and we do not use women to sell it.”
A spokeswoman for the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) said: “The travel industry is in the business of selling holidays.
“By its nature you’ll find pictures of people relaxing on the beach, in our industry more than others you’ll find people in states of undress, wearing bikinis by swimming pools and on the beach.
“It’s unlikely you’ll find sexually provocative images in holiday brochures. Especially when they’re aimed at families and when women account for about 60% of holiday decision makers within the UK.”
But Prof Pritchard had a message for those exposed to the barrage of tourism advertising. She said: “I’d like audiences to walk away thinking about the sort of images that are being sold to them, in magazines, brochures and on TV screens and to reflect on how these adverts portray the same stereotypical looks and outwardly perfect beach bodies.
“Such sexualisation and objectification undermines confidence in and comfort with one’s own body, leading to a host of negative emotional consequences for women and girls.”
The professor, who lives in Sully, has just come back from Iceland, where she presented her lecture at a conference of female world leaders organised by the country’s new Prime Minister, Johanna Sigurdardottir.