Will Race Across the World be the last travel TV of its kind?

Jumping into a turquoise infinity lake at the top of a Oaxacan mountain, Dom and his sister, Lizzie, are awestruck. “I’d have been gutted if we’d missed this.” Meanwhile, two rivals in their adventure, the married couple Jen and Robbie, are hot, sweaty and weighed down by their giant rucksacks on the outskirts of Mexico City. As the contestants soon found out, that is the thing with travel: sometimes you accidentally discover a hidden wonder of the world, other times you are sunburnt and on the edge of a breakdown at aticketing booth. Perhaps it was this sense of holiday deja vu – alongside the heartwarming displays of kindness from strangers – that made more than 4 million people watch the five couples, unaided by smartphones or air travel, race 25,000km through Latin America. Lizzie agrees: “It definitely makes it seem more epic than we ever realised before.” They add that the show – and those 28-hour bus rides – unwittingly prepared them for life in isolation: “We are both quite used to waiting now – but at least we have the comfort of our phones, TV, beds and propermeals. We’re still bickering every day, though …” With holidays cancelled, weddings and festivals postponed and people having no idea when they will be allowed to leave their home towns, Harcourt is right in that viewers are looking to TV to transport them across continents and cultures. These shows are broadcast alongside celebrity travelogues from stalwarts such as Michael Palin, Joanna Lumley and Billy Connolly, through to Jack Whitehall, Russell Howard and Sue Perkins. Channel 4’s successful Travel Man series – which has been running since 2015 – announced a change in presenter from Richard Ayoade to Joe Lycett last year. Foodie jet-setters can still torment themselves by watching the final series of The Trip – in which Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon eat in fancy restaurants around Europe, doing Marlon Brando impressions – which aired on Sky earlier this month, mid-quarantine. That will determine when a show will be able to come back.” The BBC’s Pilgrimage: The Road to Istanbul also experienced a similar strange shift in world-changing events midway through transmission. But its executive producer, Caroline Matthews, believes the timing of the series’ broadcast – in which seven celebrities walked the Sultan’s Trail from Serbia to Turkey – and its theme of peaceful contemplation struck a chord withviewers in lockdown: “I saw on Twitter that quite a few people have been commenting on the mindfulness and spirituality that’s kind of been resonating with everybody at the moment becausewe’re goingthrough such tough times,” she says. We always use local runners, crew and drivers,too.” Producers will no doubt be looking to the travel industry for guidance, as it tries to work out how it can function after the pandemic. I think this crisis has really highlighted the need for advice on TV shows again, like we used to seewithHoliday or Wish You Were Here..?” Reece believes the focus will be on UK-based holidays: “Some people will want to go back to their favourite places, such as Devon and Cornwall, but others will want to go where they can escape the crowds. I think there’s going to be much more interest in remote places, plus glamping, camping and road-tripping in camper vans to explore the British Isles.” As for Race Across the World, plans for the first celebrity version were postponed in March, but Harcourt remains optimistic: “We haven’t started casting for the next series, but I am confident we will be ready to go as soon as travel restrictions are lifted for one of the routes we want. The nation's leading zoological parks – Dehiwala National Zoo (pictured), Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, Pinnawala Open Zoo and Ridiyagama Safari Park – were closed for two weeks on March 14.  The Al-Aqsa mosque and Dome of the Rock were closed down until further notice, on March 15. Italians have been experiencing further virus-containment restrictions after Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced a nationwide lockdown on personal movement on March 9.