The global engineer
By the end of 2009, alongside new technology we are likely to have a whole new language for travelling: from "rail-blazing" to "chillaxing" - E&T speculates.
Are you a CIP? Or could you more accurately be described as a culture sparrow? Would you like to go on a hag weekend? Or on a sa-near-i? Or is rail-blazing more your style?
If you are any of these things, you are future-facing, thrusting forward into 2009. For all of these are predicted trends in the travel market over the new year.
A CIP is a high-end executive traveller, or Commercially Important Person - an increasingly threatened species worldwide. A culture sparrow is similar to a culture vulture, but someone who enjoys just a small dose of art and history, rather than wallowing for a whole weekend in Monets and Medieval artefacts.
Sa-near-i is a journey with the purpose of viewing wildlife without travelling long distances, in contrast to a sa-far-i. Gannet spotting in Scotland is a classic saneari. Rail-blazing is the act of venturing, by rail, into uncharted territory. And a hag weekend is like a hen or stag weekend but for new divorcees, permanent spinsters or bachelors. Or, preferably, all three at the same time.
CIPs may be a rare breed, but they have managed to wipe out rival species such as VIPs, who may have a high profile but can suffer from a small bank balance. Hotel groups such as the St Regis in Asia are laying traps for these dangerous beasts. They have a fleet of Bentleys waiting to whisk them from the airport so they can't escape to a rival chain. On reaching the luxurious lobby, they're greeted by a Blackberry-wielding Butler - like Jeeves but wired.
Fiona Jeffrey, chair of World Travel Market, also predicts the CIPs will increasingly arrive on business-class-only flights, despite the collapse of companies providing such services. And last October, PrivateJetShare.com was launched, a global network enabling travellers to book individual seats on private jets. It's like car sharing for CIPs.
But what are the chances that these predictions will come true? It's always a challenge to know which inventions and trends will catch on and which will go the way of To Sox (a pre-shrunk protector for the big toe, to prevent excessive wear on socks) or the Light Spectacles (invented in the US in the 1930s, with two battery-powered lights above each lens).
Fifty years after the launch of the Ideal Home Show and its House of the Future, our sitting rooms aren't at all like they were imagined. The first House of the Future had showers that not only washed but also blow-dried us afterwards. Our houses were supposed to be minimalist and clutter-free, as all the furniture rose electronically from the floor at the push of a button.
And as for travel? Well, the biggest prediction is that technology would squash it. For almost a decade, video conferencing was seen as the alternative to having to fly anywhere at all. An international business meeting could happen in six countries at the same time, without anyone having to rise from their desks.
More and bigger
In fact, business travellers are clocking up more miles than ever before, some say expanding by up to 10 per cent each year. In Asia, in particular, schemes are being developed to accommodate the increasing number of mobile entrepreneurs. Singapore has the innovative JetQuay terminal, designed exclusively for business-class passengers, providing quicker immigration and customs clearance.
I am not convinced that quicker is necessarily more efficient; the tale of the Tortoise and the Hare springs to mind whenever I think of JetQuay and similar fast-tracking solutions. But, according to a World Travel Market spokesperson: "There was overwhelming demand for this service during the F1 Grand Prix in the city last September. The CIPs came streaming in at full throttle."
These feverish CIPs obviously haven't heard of another future travel trend - chillaxing. That is, achieving ultimate relaxation with a focus on leisurely activities. Tahiti is particularly recommended for a chillaxing time. Or a small Greek island.
I'm thinking of doing a bit of chillaxing myself on a gap month, another new journeying option, thereby cleverly combining two new travel trends at once. A gap month is just like a gap year, but requires less money and less time - two commodities in scarce supply at the moment. Only being away for a few weeks also reduces the risk of being moved on, as my desk won't be empty long enough for someone to even steal my paperclips.
My personal travel prediction is simple. Everything to do with business travel will not necessarily get better, but it will certainly get bigger... and bigger... and bigger. By the end of the year, a convention centre capable of hosting more than 52,000 delegates will open in Singapore. Shanghai hopes to follow suit - or suites.
Meanwhile, Hyatt has just opened the world's highest hotel in that city. "Since time immemorial, poets have romanticised about sleeping under the stars, and at the Park Hyatt Shanghai you can be halfway there!" waxes the press release. I somehow don't think this is what John Donne had in mind.
Of course, the 101-storey Hyatt isn't called a hotel at all, but a Vertical Complex City. To house CIPs, I presume?
And my final prediction? By the end of this year, we'll have a whole new language for travelling, from rail-blazing to chillaxing. I think I'll write the phrasebook.