IN KEEPING with the trend for charging for things travellers used to get free, it should perhaps come as no surprise that sunbeds are the latest feature of a standard holiday on which travel agents are slapping extra fees. Thomas Cook, a British package-holiday firm, has announced that it will allow holidaymakers to pre-book poolside loungers for £22 ($31) per person. Six days before the start of a trip, travellers will get an email offering them the chance to reserve specific sunbeds. The booking tool will include a map that allows people to see where the sun will shine at various times of day. The experiment will start in late February at three hotels on the Canary Islands and will expand to 30 hotels this summer. 

To some holidaymakers, this will seem like yet another attempt by the travel industry to get money from every source possible. Airlines, for instance, made $82bn in add-on fees last year alone, according to IdeaWorksCompany, a research firm. Over the past few years, both full-service and low-cost airlines have introduced steep fees for passengers to reserve a specific seat on their planes. And last year Thomas Cook made it possible for holidaymakers to reserve a specific room in their resorts by paying €30 ($37).

To others, it represents a reprieve from the increasingly stressful hassle of nabbing a good spot by the pool. For decades Britons on package holidays have had to get up early to reserve the best loungers with a towel when their hotel pool opens. At some Spanish hotels serving several nationalities, national animosity can easily explode next to the pool. Britons on holiday have long complained that the best sunbeds at Spanish resorts are always taken by Germans—who tend to be more organised in their pursuit of the best ones. Some nationalist politicians see Thomas Cook’s move as a form of one-upmanship against an old enemy. Nigel Farage was quick to proclaim his support, telling The Sun, “It’s nice to be ahead of the Germans for once. Another Brexit bonus!”

Nationalist guff aside, Gulliver thinks that the move also makes good economic sense. Where there is a shortage of a commodity, from oil to road space to sun loungers, The Economist has long argued that charging a market price to match demand and supply is the preferable solution to just putting up with congestion, whether that is on a motorway or next to a hotel pool. Many travellers will surely agree with Thomas Cook that it is better to pay a small fee in order to actually relax on their holidays, than get up at 6am each morning to nab the best spot while they are away.