As someone rightly said, it is better to see something once than hear about it a thousand times. The human urge to travel has led to a boom in tourism, with some countries blessed with natural beauty raking in the dollars as tourists pour in. Tourism now offers something for everyone. There is ecotourism, adventure travel, business tourism, religious tourism, sports tourism and medical tourism, among others.
With the rise of environmental awareness, more and more people are becoming conscious of the impact of pollution. So, some may choose to visit a place that has not yet been spoilt by human beings and where the local inhabitants are passionate about keeping their environment free from the deleterious effects of modern lifestyles. A tourist who opts for a unique experience, far from the madding crowd, will look for places that are off the beaten track, natural areas relatively untouched by human intervention.
Much as I love reading about such places, I am too attached to my creature comforts to be able to voluntarily live rough, even if for a few days. I did try it once, camping in the outback in Australia. That one night spent in the wilderness was the longest of my life, with my heart thumping to the beat of every suspicious sound in the stillness of the night.
Cruise tourism is something I experienced recently which entailed travelling on the Volga from St Petersburg to Moscow. This I definitely enjoyed as the passengers were a mix of nationalities and getting to know them at leisure was enjoyable. The exquisite multi-course meals appealed to the gourmand in me.
Sports events held in different countries attract a lot of tourists, too, as witnessed during the recent cricket World Cup. A case in point is the Indian family who travelled for seven weeks, traversing just under 14,000 miles, to watch India in the semi-final clash against New Zealand. They opted to travel by road as the whole family wanted to watch the men in blue and this was the most convenient way of ensuring they stayed together.
In Pittsburg, a 72-year-old doting grandfather spends quality time at the airport with his three-year-old granddaughter, riding the trams between terminals and gliding along the moving walkways. They also love to just sit there, watching the planes land and take off, which is what I love to do too
And now my curiosity has been piqued by the latest entry into the plethora of tourism categories — terminal tourism. No, this is not born out of a macabre interest in dreaded diseases. Several airports are adopting programmes, allowing non-travellers beyond security border posts and giving them access to restaurants and shops as well as the art exhibits and spas that many airports now offer.
This innovative experience has been rolled out in the US. Somehow I cannot see this happening in India simply because of the population pressure. Does anyone remember the days when anyone was allowed into an airport here? That was when we saw hordes of relatives and friends accompanying each passenger, determined to be with their loved ones until the last possible moment.
When this became untenable, an entry fee was introduced which did bring down the numbers but wasn’t deterrent enough. Once security issues were raised and no one was allowed inside except for passengers, there was room inside to walk freely.
Meanwhile, in Pittsburg, a 72-year-old doting grandfather spends quality time at the airport with his three-year-old granddaughter, riding the trams between terminals and gliding along the moving walkways. They also love to just sit there, watching the planes land and take off, which is what I love to do too.
I love spending time at airports and long waits do not bother me. There is so much to observe in this microcosm of the world. And it is the only place where you can walk around with crushed clothes and tired eyes without being judged.
—Vanaja Rao is a freelance writer based in Hyderabad, India.