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The glaring problem with travel TV going under the radar-Kitty Chrisp-Entertainment – Metro

Another man fronting a travel show… Great.

The glaring problem with travel TV going under the radar-Kitty Chrisp-Entertainment – Metro

When was the last time you watched a woman exploring the world on TV? (Picture: BBC/Channel 4/Channel 5/Netflix/Getty/REX)

You would have hoped the horizons of travel television for women would have expanded over the past 20 years – but they haven’t.

Cast your mind back to Bridget Jones sequel The Edge of Reason in 2004, when she embarks on a trip to Thailand to make a travel TV show with slimy co-star and love interest Daniel Cleaver.

In the fictional series, Daniel (Hugh Grant) makes innuendos with two local scantily-clad women under his arm while icon Bridget (Renée Zellweger) chokes on local delicacies and adorably makes a tit out of herself.

He then proceeds to hire a prostitute for the night, much to the horror of Bridget who was about to succumb to his charming ways and crawl into bed after a bit of star-gazing.

It was a comedy of its time. But even with the sexist tropes and leering leading man, this fictional version of travel TV was arguably more progressive than the real life state of travel shows then – and even now in 2024.

At least Bridget fronted her own show.

Even 2004 film Bridget Jones:The Edge of Reason had a more progressive travel show scene than in real life (Picture: Laurie Sparham/Universal/Studio Canal/Miramax/Kobal/REX)

We’ve come a long way since the noughties in terms of women on TV – the days of boys-club comedy panel shows is, thankfully, over, and sexism is for the most part not tolerated.

Women are fronting TV dramas left, right and centre, with True Detective – a historically male-led show – getting two female leads, Death In Paradise opting for its first ever female detective, and with the likes of Three Little Birds, After the Flood, and Better all shining a big spotlight on female talent. Good news.

In 2021, BBC3 announced women had overtaken men in comedy series representation on the channel, as 58% of their output was either acted, written, or created by women after the Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Daisy May Cooper-led revolution.

Meanwhile, on the most wholesome corner of TV – where presenters shed a tear Machu Picchu or give a wide-eyed grin while tucking into the best bánh mì in Vietnam, and adventure is a celebration – you don’t find misogyny or sexist jokes… but you also don’t find women.

In fact, Intrepid Travel have found that only 26 of 101 travel shows available to stream on the two leading TV channels include a female presenter, and the company – who organise group tours across the world – are now calling for action.

Back in 2018, Ofcom found that on BBC One and BBC Two men outnumbered women on TV by 62% to 38% across genres.

So six years later in 2024, travel TV is lagging pathetically behind the 2018 percentage of women on BBC shows across genres.

The years-old report also highlighted how only 20% of faces in sports TV were women – making Intrepid’s similar percentage of women in travel TV six years later particularly stark.

Since 2018, sports TV has welcomed a number of new female faces and punters on screen (namely, Alex Scott and Jill Scott) – a move fuelled in part by the inspiring Lionesses Euros win.

But Travel TV remains stagnantly male – it is yet to have its Fleabag moment, its big win, or even its 2000s Bridget Jones moment, for that matter.

Dame Joanna Lumley is an exception (Picture: Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)

While occasionally a woman and a man team up for a travel show – such as Miriam Margolyes and Alan Cumming exploring Scotland – there are even fewer shows with a solo female presenter.

Netflix’s food romp with chef Samin Nosrat – Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat – is one of three recent programmes with a woman at the helm, as well as Joanna Lumley’s successful series of travelogues on ITV and Sue Perkins’ round the world adventures. (insert title)

Of course, there’s the iconic Wish You Were Here…? hosted by the brilliant Judith Chalmers. But that aired in the 1970s.

Meanwhile, its harder to name a male comedian who hasn’t fronted their travel series than one that has.

John Bishop, Micky Flanagan, Al Murray, Romesh Ranganathan, Michael Palin, Stephen Fry, Billy Connolly, Paul Merton, Leigh Francis, Ade Edmondson, Griff Rhys Jones, Karl Pilkington (also with Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant) and David Baddiel are just a few who have been there and got the T-shirt.

Jack Whitehall’s Travels With My Father has proved popular (Picture: Netflix/Whitehall Films Ltd)

Richard Ayoade’s Travel Man is a popular show for intrepid dreamers (Picture: Channel 4 Television)

The biggest travel shows of the moment are all fronted by men, including Richard Ayoade’s Channel 4 show Travel Man, and Netflix’s Somebody Feed Phil.

This is before you get to the adventuring male duos which is somewhat of a genre in itself with Jack Whitehall and his father, and Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan, spearheading the movement.

Also included in this genre are Ed Byrne and Dara O Briain; Joel Dommett and Nish Kumar; Sean Lock and Jon Richardson; Frank Skinner and Lee Mack; and Miles Jupp and Elis James.

Meanwhile, Paddy McGuinness and Gary Barlow – unlikely travel experts – have their own shows in the works as we speak while Strictly stars Anton Du Beke and Giovanni Pernice can currently be found on Monday nights enjoying a Spanish road trip for BBC.

Where is hilarious Fern Brady wearing a sombrero in Mexico? Or Joanne McNally sipping cocktails and causing chaos in Thailand? How about Katherine Ryan backpacking through South America?

This lack of representation of women fronting adventure travel shows has a knock-on effect according to the tour operator, who took a sample of 2,000 UK people in March 2024.

It noticed an ‘adventure gap’ between genders, as 87% of women don’t feel represented in travel and adventure content on TV.

This is despite 68% of women classing themselves as ‘adventurous’ and a third saying they feel more adventurous than ever.

Of course Paddy McGuinness is getting his own travel show (Picture: BBC/James Stack)

The Trip Starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon is an example of the ‘two men go travelling’ TV genre (Picture: BBC/Revolution/Phil Fisk)

Almost two-thirds of women agree that seeing more people like themselves within travel TV shows would give them more confidence to go after their travel dreams.

Further to this, the company found 69% of women say that they’ve put their travel and adventure aspirations on the back burner.

The lack of women on TV is also not through a lack of trying from female comedians and personalities, who have failed over the years to secure their own shows.

In 2019, TV commissioners came under fire constantly turning to male comics to front travel series over women (with the exception of Sue Perkins, who was filmed travelling to the Mekong river and Calcutta for the BBC).

Backlash began when comedian London Hughes revealed online that the legend Whoopi Goldberg had agreed to do a travel show with her, but unbelievably the duo failed to spark interest from broadcasters.

Mock The Week star Tiff Stevenson also revealed that she had pitched a show with Meera Syal to no avail.

She wrote: ‘I also pitched female comics doing travel show together back in 2015 and couldn’t get uptake. It’s a joke.’

Which women would you like to see fronting their own travel TV show? Comment Now

Philomena Cunk in Cunk on Britain is one of our leading female TV travel presenters – and she’s entirely fictional (Picture: BBC)

Dr Adele Doran, Principal Lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, whose research specialises in outdoor recreation and adventure tourism, has noted how there’s a ‘preference to use middle-aged male presenters’ for travel TV.

She said: ‘There seems to be a preference to use middle-aged male presenters on TV travel shows, particularly comedians. You see them haggling at markets, taking epic journeys, trying exotic food, and climbing mountains.

‘Consequently, audiences are perpetually seeing and hearing about adventure travel through the filters and experiences of male travellers.

‘Yet, women make up 57% of global adventure travellers which proves that there is the desire to create and consume female-centric travel and adventure content.

‘Women are often relegated to travel shows and travel writing with a fashion, spa, well-being, or gastronomy angle.

‘Whereas adventure or discovery travel, particularly in remote areas, is often associated with men and commands higher prestige.’

Indeed, Diane Morgan’s Cunk on Earth is the most refreshing travel TV we’ve seen in years… and that’s a mockumentary.

Let’s sort it out, shall we?

Intrepid Travel are launching a free AdventurHER Exhibition highlighting the stories of female adventurers from around the world.

The exhibition is open 19th – 21st April in Camden Passage, Angel, London.

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