Now Everyone is Flying, or Should be
Category: Newspaper / Magazine Columns
Did she or didn't she? Mythbusters and those hell bent on disputing urban lore often point out that the innocuous phrase "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche", often translated into English as, "Let them eat cake", had nothing to do with Queen Marie-Antoinette.
Over the past five years, Asia's middle class continues day in and day out to be the region's travel superstars. It's like a casting call for American Idol, only bigger.
Anyone who has visited an airport recently can't help but have "Now everyone can fly" etched into their memory-scape.
It's like one of those insane jingles you can't get out of your head. No amount of booze, sleep deprivation or therapy will help - it's still there.
Sure there are calls from tourism officials and online gripe-sites about when elite, high rolling tourists will return, but somehow I can't see plane-loads of Greeks pulling up in tour buses at Phuket International Airport anytime soon.
Unless they are job seekers or we start seeing a trend of Euro boatpeople wading ashore. Anything is possible.
But this has little to do with my point, which is about the miracle of Asia's Low-Cost Carriers (LCC) and how profoundly connected we have all become.
I'm sitting in a hotel room in Colombo, Sri Lank typing this after coming in on one of those AirAsia red birds. Who would have imagined that for a little over 8,000 baht I could visit such a great exotic destination? I struck up a conversation on the plane with my seat-mate who works in Bangkok and who was travelling with a large tour group.
Forget Chiang Mai, or Kanchanburi, these people were headed into the great wide open.
I often cross the invisible line between the few and the masses from staid legacy airline carriers and budget airlines. There is a reason they call them Airbuses and the LCCs tend to be chaotic trips, with rugby scrums of people providing scenes straight out of Noah's Ark.
I travel a lot and despite a previous life as a corporate hotelier, where flying was at the front of the bus followed by suites at hotels and all the perks that you can image, at times the journey became surreal.
My tastes can run anywhere from private pool villas to a Holiday Inn Express, ibis or the wide assortment that lays somewhere in the middle. Big hotel rooms confuse me; I wake up in the middle of the night wondering where I am.
Please don't make me a VIP, just leave me alone, let me get to my room and - as long as the bed is comfy, Wi-Fi is working and the neighborhood is interesting - it's all good.
At school I loved sitting in the back of the room. Somehow things were more interesting sitting with the truants and misfits who irked those in authority.
The whole premise of thinking that an ever-increasing population can go out into the world to see, to experience and to travel is such a breath of fresh air. This is Asia's decade and while things are no doubt going to be on the edge of craziness, it's the future.
We can smugly want to keep the club small and open to only those who float through vacations or business trips without even speaking to a local unless they are a driver, waitress or guest services staff. Or else we can make it real. Sure it's not always pretty and things will be messy, but isn't that life? While we all know what happened to our dearly departed Marie-Antoinette, today following the Yellow Brick Road with Dorothy and Toto is simply too much fun to miss.
There's plenty more room on the magic bus; so if you care to get off your couch and join the rest of humanity, jump on in.
Does anyone know happened to that piece of cake? Anyone?