Sunday, 21 June 2009

Cities with Tubes (underground trains)

I for one love the flexibility and ease of travelling around a large city on the tube. In my home city of London the tube makes zipping around the sights and attractions quick and easy and somewhat affordable if you buy the correct ticket. In any city which has an underground transit system you will definitely see the advantages of a tube if you are used to travelling across town on a bus in the middle of rush hour. You could argue that tubes can be just as uncomfortable and sweaty in rush hour as buses as you will get packed on, but some places such as Tokyo have employed people to make sure every last person is squeezed into the carriage by using force if necessary. In Hong Kong however, the journey’s can be much more pleasant as the carriages are air conditioned so even on the snuggest journey you can be pretty confident that your armpits will remain dry. This is a rarity because many of the underground networks are very old and an effective air conditioning system would be expensive to put in place.

I found a wiki site which lists all the cities in the world which have an underground transit system. This is a good reference if you would like to visit a city knowing that travel around it is easy.

Another good article I found shows arguably the best underground systems in the world.


Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Is The Internet Ruining Our Travel Experiences Before We Even Go?

The Internet can provide a great wealth of information to us about destinations around the globe. All you need to do is log onto any travel oriented website to find reviews, photos, videos, guides and advice all at your finger tips. But is this preconceived knowledge ruining the excitement of travel in the 21st century? We seem to be so caught up in having a good holiday that we are forget the best experiences and surprises can happen when we least expect it.

Many people I talk to speak of “the surprising delight factor”. These can best be described as unexpected events which enhance your overall holiday experience. This could be visiting a city while a festival or a movie premier is in town, or seeing a natural event such a volcano erupting or a meteor shower. These events can really make holidays and leave you feeling like you have got real value from your trip because you saw something special that people generally do not see. I wonder if we did not plan our visits so severely or do so much research beforehand, could we encounter more “surprising delight factors”?

Well in theory yes. Most holiday destinations have many things to see and do all year round so there is a good chance of turning up and there being an event you did not predict, but going on holiday unprepared is certainly not in the mindset of most holiday makers. Holiday makers generally plan their trips around what is going on at the destination or the time of the year. Our lifestyles are probably to blame because the average family will only go on one major holiday a year due to school holidays, budgets and time constraints, and therefore getting the one escape right is rather crucial.

I think backpackers are the most likely to encounter the “surprising delight factor” because they tend to travel on whims, change directions and be more spontaneous. They travel with a more liberal mindset and tend not to do so much planning in advance which is why it can be such a rewarding to travel. When I was travelling the world as a backpacker I encountered a traditional Japanese wedding while visiting a shrine in Tokyo, and saw baby koalas in Sydney Zoo and felt I had experienced a “surprising delight factor” of my own.

Perhaps in the future holidays will become redundant as our technological experiences become richer and more life like. Why would someone need to visit the rainforest or Niagara Falls if they could sample the sights, smells and signs online from their living room via the Internet. It is unclear how technology will shape travel in the future and the impact the web will ultimately have, but for now I suggest travelling the open road and taking each experience as it comes. Let me know what you think the future holds.

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Thursday, 26 March 2009

Would You Pay Not To Queue At Airport Security?

Luton airport has announced it will be providing a service to those passengers who wish to pay to beat the queues at security checks. For £3 you can be bumped to the front of the queue while other passengers wait for you to be scanned and cleared. At Liverpool airport there is a similar system but instead you get lead to a dedicated scanner for the £3 charge. This seems to be a more sensible option as passengers who don’t pay will not have to watch others pass through ahead of them, holding up their progress. So are all these additional charges getting out of control? Maybe. On budget airlines you can find yourself paying extra to board the plane first, for a specific seat, or to fly with more than one item of luggage. Some airports have gone as far as charging for clear plastic bags to hold any liquids you may be carrying on board so where will it stop?

I don’t think these extras will put passengers off flying but airlines and airports need to consider if these extras are worth it as the costs add up and may affect people’s choices of where to fly from. It is apparent that Gatwick and Heathrow have no plans to introduce queue jump schemes so it will be interesting to see how customers react to Luton’s new scheme. Watch this space.


Saturday, 14 March 2009

The Nano Break And The Struggling Economy

As a consequence of the economic downturn it has been apparent that the length of a weekend break has fallen from the standard two nights to just the one. This trend has been spotted across the UK and in other European cities. In January this year there was a 29% increase in the number of Britons searching for a one night break in the UK. For example single night weekend breaks were up 143% in Bournemouth, 140% in Brighton, and 82% in Edinburgh. These are larger increases than those reported in Europe, but in Rome and Venice the increase was by 47% and 84% respectively.

So how long will this trend last for? And is it the nano break the attitude we need to help revitalise the economy and the travel industry? Well this trend is certainly not going to boost the economy out of the current recession because holiday makers are shortening their stays and spending less. In fact it is a grim outlook for the summer holiday as many are cutting their two week escapes to the sun to a ten day break instead. Something needs to happen to kick start consumer spending habits before we see a recovery. This may come from companies lowering holiday prices (perhaps in desperation), or the economy shifting to give people more disposable income.

The nano break will only be a temporary fad and will rise and fall with the UK’s economy that is for sure. Once people have the money again, it will be spent back on holidays; something the British public hold very close to their hearts. It will be interesting to see how the travel industry does recover from the global down turn and what will be left in its wake. However it is certain that this multi billion pound industry will continue to flourish despite this short term mishap.