Inner Circle

Scoot me off with a smile, please

Yeoh Siew Hoon anticipates an exciting year of travel

Scoot me off with a smile, please
The other piece of good news is that it’s becoming easier for us to plan, book and travel, without the need for intermediaries

Happy Dragon Year.

I feel like I’ve spent the last two months going from one festivity to another, from Christmas to New Year’s Day and then onto Chinese New Year, which came earlier than usual.

Typical Dragon behaviour really – impatient and raring to take us on a goodness-knows-what ride this year as it nudges the Rabbit out of the way.

And so we went from feasting on turkey to nibbling on pineapple tarts – a strange combination to say the least, but somewhat symbolic of today’s world, where the mix of cultures is somewhat expected.

I also used the time to feast on news, particularly predictions from experts on what the New Year will hold for travellers.

Well, first the good news – we will have a lot more choice.

Low cost airlines are being set up in Singapore, Thailand and Japan with names such as Scoot, Peach and Smile. They will allow us to scoot anywhere at peachy-prices that make us smile.

They will change the way we travel. I recently had dinner with a friend who lives in Kuching, Sarawak, and we were discussing travel plans when he declared, “I just spent the weekend in Capetown.”

He flew into the South African city on a Friday and left the following Monday – something that would have been unthinkable in the old days, but no longer as we venture further, even on short breaks.

Budget long-haul airlines such as AirAsia X, Jetstar and Scoot are pushing the boundaries of locations we might consider travelling to on a weekend – perhaps London to catch a sporting event given that it’s Olympics year in the British capital, or a quick visit to Paris to see an art exhibition.

The other piece of good news is that it’s becoming easier for us to plan, book and travel, without the need for intermediaries. Astounding web developments and travel websites that cater to every interest. Social networks allow us to share travel recommendations with friends. Some airlines have launched apps that allow us to choose seats next to friends and mobile devices have become indispensable travel tools.

I now carry a gadget with me everywhere and upon landing at any airport, I buy a pre-paid data card, which becomes my mobile hot spot, to avoid exorbitant roaming charges or relying on local Wi-Fi networks. Shangri-La were so ahead of the game by making Internet available at all hotels and I can’t believe there some still withhold this convenience from guests. 

This year mobile devices will feature even more prominently in the lives of travellers.

It saved me from getting lost in New Zealand last month, and helped to find a good restaurant in the middle of nowhere in Mangonui – not that that’s too hard because there are only a handful of restaurants in the small town. I recommend the Mangonui Fish n’ Chips, the best in the world, according to some reviews.

I believe there will be some sort of backlash against this technological intrusion into our lives and if Pico Iyer is correct, we may yearn to escape into silence. Perhaps in future Shangri-La resorts will actually have an “Unplugged” zone where you can go to literally switch off.

Whatever happens, travellers are winners in 2012 because we have the right to choose – even if it’s to switch off or not. 

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