Here and There: Why Asians Travel

Fiona Caulfield (L) and Rahul Jacob in a panel discussion in the garden next to Good Earth’s new store in Colaba. (Asia Society India Centre)

MUMBAI, January 17, 2009 – Travel experts say that the places people visit have become more varied. The list of locations considered "exotic" and rarely traveled-to has also become shorter, and travelers no longer choose to visit a predictable set of European destinations. Finally, the ways in which people travel, and their open-mindedness toward travel, have also changed, especially compared to travel in the Victorian age.

These were some of the conclusions reached at a panel discussion organized by Asia Society India Centre which featured Rahul Jacob, author of Right of Passage and travel editor of the Financial Times, and Fiona Caulfield, founder of the Love Travel Guides and freelance travel writer. Naresh Fernandes, editor of Time Out Mumbai, moderated the panel.

Among the differences between travel today and in the 19th and early-20th centuries, the panel cited the interest that travelers typically now have in the local inhabitants, the architecture, and food in the places they visit. This interest and curiosity all mark a departure from the reasons why people traveled in the past.

The panel also discussed the relative merits of travel guides. On the one hand, travel books can often tell more about a place than a person can discover by wandering around for several days. On the other hand, quick information on where to stay and eat isn't the kind of information that causes visitors to fall in love with a given place—and people who travel today are looking for a level of involvement in the societies that they visit that travel guides don't offer.

The panelists also acknowledged that the role of international travel in global warming is increasingly a source of concern. Air travel, however, has been estimated as only accounting for 6% of greenhouse gases in the environment. In the future, the panel concluded, people will just need to travel more sensibly by walking, for example, or taking buses and trains as often as possible as opposed to planes.

Reported by Angeline Thangaperakasam, Asia Society India Centre