How Asian Social Media Transformed a Quiet U.K. Walking Spot

Excerpt from this article:

“When we search for London on social media, it’s the first thing we see,” Hyeon Hui Shin, a 28-year-old tourist from South Korea, said of the East Sussex cliffs, known as the Seven Sisters. “I didn’t know it was so far from London!”

The Seven Sisters — stark, white chalk cliffs facing the English Channel — have long been popular among hikers, a hardy, “walking type,” said Fran Downton, a marketing manager at Tourism South East, the region’s tourist board.

But over the past two years, visitors from China have been increasingly hopping on trains to make day trips here from London. Travelers from South Korea have now started joining them. And they are largely inspired by the cliffs’ appearances in social media, films — especially the “Harry Potter” series — and by recommendations from celebrities.

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Instravel – A Photogenic Mass Tourism Experience

Instravel – A Photogenic Mass Tourism Experience from Oliver KMIA on Vimeo.

 

From the video description:

I came up with this idea last year while traveling in Roma. I wanted to take a look at the popular Trevi Fountain but I never managed to get close to it. The place was assaulted by hundreds of tourists, some of them formed a huge line to get a spot in front of the Fountain. Needless to say that I was very pissed by this sight and left for the not less crowded Pantheon.

I was shocked by the mass of people walking all around the city, yet I was one of them, not better or worst. Like all these tourists, I burned hundred of gallons of fuel to get there, rushed to visit the city in a few days and stayed in a hotel downtown… I decided to make this kind of sarcastic video but with the focus on travel and mass tourism…

While the era of mass world tourism and global world travel opened up in the 60s and 70s with the development of Jumbo Jets and low cost airlines, there is a new trend that consists of taking pictures everywhere you go to share it on social networks. During my trip, I felt that many people didn’t really enjoy the moment and were hooked to their smartphones. As if the ultimate goal of travel was to brag about it online and run after the likes and followers.

What will travel look like in 50 years’ time?

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The future airport
Says who? Declan Collier, CEO of London City Airport
“With the airport of the future, your journey will begin wherever you want it to – you’ll be able to check in and deposit your luggage at your hotel, office or train station. You won’t even notice being searched as you pass through security. Your experience will be completely tailored – so your regular coffee order will be waiting on arrival, a virtual shopping terminal will be brought to your seat, and your dry cleaning will be handed to you when you land. You’ll board and disembark planes without feeling like you’ve been in an airport at all.”

Welcome to Airspace

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Every time Schwarzmann alights in a foreign city he checks the app, which lists food, nightlife, and entertainment recommendations with the help of a social network-augmented algorithm. Then he heads toward the nearest suggested cafe. But over the past few years, something strange has happened. “Every coffee place looks the same,” Schwarzmann says. The new cafe resembles all the other coffee shops Foursquare suggests, whether in Odessa, Beijing, Los Angeles, or Seoul: the same raw wood tables, exposed brick, and hanging Edison bulbs.

It’s not that these generic cafes are part of global chains like Starbucks or Costa Coffee, with designs that spring from the same corporate cookie cutter. Rather, they have all independently decided to adopt the same faux-artisanal aesthetic. Digital platforms like Foursquare are producing “a harmonization of tastes” across the world, Schwarzmann says. “It creates you going to the same place all over again.”

…We could call this strange geography created by technology “AirSpace.” It’s the realm of coffee shops, bars, startup offices, and co-live / work spaces that share the same hallmarks everywhere you go: a profusion of symbols of comfort and quality, at least to a certain connoisseurial mindset. Minimalist furniture. Craft beer and avocado toast. Reclaimed wood. Industrial lighting. Cortados. Fast internet. The homogeneity of these spaces means that traveling between them is frictionless, a value that Silicon Valley prizes and cultural influencers like Schwarzmann take advantage of. Changing places can be as painless as reloading a website. You might not even realize you’re not where you started.

It’s possible to travel all around the world and never leave AirSpace, and some people don’t… As an affluent, self-selecting group of people move through spaces linked by technology, particular sensibilities spread, and these small pockets of geography grow to resemble one another, as Schwarzmann discovered: the coffee roaster Four Barrel in San Francisco looks like the Australian Toby’s Estate in Brooklyn looks like The Coffee Collective in Copenhagen looks like Bear Pond Espresso in Tokyo. You can get a dry cortado with perfect latte art at any of them, then Instagram it on a marble countertop and further spread the aesthetic to your followers.

This confluence of style is being accelerated by companies that foster a sense of placelessness, using technology to break down geography. Airbnb is a prominent example. Even as it markets unique places as consumable goods, it helps its users travel without actually having to change their environment, or leave the warm embrace of AirSpace…

The connective emotional grid of social media platforms is what drives the impression of AirSpace. If taste is globalized, then the logical endpoint is a world in which aesthetic diversity decreases. It resembles a kind of gentrification: one that happens concurrently across global urban centers. Just as a gentrifying neighborhood starts to look less diverse as buildings are renovated and storefronts replaced, so economically similar urban areas around the world might increasingly resemble each other and become interchangeable…

Yet the AirSpace aesthetic that Airbnb has contributed to, and the geography it creates, limits experiences of difference in the service of comforting a particular demographic (“the vanilla tourist”) falsely defined as the norm. It is a “hallucination of the normal,” as Koolhaas writes. This is the harmful illusion that so much technology, and technological culture, perpetuates: if you do not fit within its predefined structures as an effective user, you must be doing something wrong.

Meet the Unlikely Airbnb Hosts of Japan

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Which brought us back to the challenge at hand. It was hard not to wonder how a company that’s disruptive at its core would be received ultimately in Japan, where harmonious unity — a concept known as wa — is something of a national virtue. How does a storm arrive in a place that’s phobic about storms?…

I asked if she thought Airbnb would eventually take off in Japan. Hayashi considered the question awhile, then gave a kind of yes-and-no answer. “Japanese people are very comfortable with the concept of sharing,” she said, citing the close quarters in which many families lived and the tradition of using sentou, communal bath houses. It’s just that they are less accustomed to sharing with outsiders.

… A number of the Tokyo hosts said they deliberately kept quiet about their involvement with Airbnb. “It’s kind of like talking about your investment portfolio,” one said. “You really only discuss it with the very closest of friends.” Japan has a national hotel law, which requires the licensing of any business that provides accommodation, though enforcement is spotty. But there’s also a tradition of individuals’ renting rooms to students or short-term visitors, called minpaku, which is considered legal. Airbnb, as it does in many countries, exists — nimbly, cannily — in a gray area. Mostly, people feared their neighbors, concerned that one poor interaction with a foreigner — one noisy night, one trampled flower bed, one failure to interpret the boundaries of what was acceptable — might lead to a police complaint or problems with a landlord.

…When new guests checked into a place he managed, he met them personally, showing them how to remove their shoes at the door and explaining that they needed to speak more quietly than maybe they did at home. Sometimes, though, the gulf between cultures felt unbridgeable, the boundaries impossible to translate. Machida described running afoul of a building co-op board, forced to close one of his listings after a visitor from Europe was spotted, to someone’s apparent horror, charging her cellphone in the building’s lobby.

 

 

One person’s electronics ban is that same person’s needed respite

Can't use laptop? Royal Jordanian suggests meditation, small talk

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Most airline passengers will be unaffected by the ban, because it covers a limited number of airlines out of a small number of countries. But even if you aren’t forced to stow away your laptop or tablet in your checked luggage, you may want to anyway.
A device-free hiatus is a gift.

But for others, it’s definitely NOT a gift:

For travelers who frequently cross through the Middle East and North Africa, the choices put them between a rock and a hard place: They can check their devices and lose a day or more of productive work, as well as run the risk of damage or theft, or trade a nonstop flight on a high-end Persian Gulf carrier for connecting flights on one of the major American or European airlines, where amenities and leg room are likely to be skimpier.

…“There are a lot of policies out there that basically say you can’t be separated from your laptop,” said Greeley Koch, executive director at the Association of Corporate Travel Executives.