How We Travel at Portier! (2021 interview)
We conducted a brief interview with Portier staff to understand how our team feels about post-pandemic leisure travel, contactless payment, and the resort vs city hotel debate. We also share our favourite ways to immerse ourselves in local cultures. Here’s some insight into our thoughts.
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2021: Will we travel for leisure?
Wan Qing Chin – Marketing & Business Associate (Singapore)
Yes, I would travel leisurely in 2021, after I have received the vaccine. My first destination would be Fiji and then – if possible – New Zealand. These are countries which will potentially set up travel bubbles with Singapore, which I will most likely travel to, as they would be less troublesome. I think the idea of having quarantine would put me off from booking a trip there.
Rujichon Iamphattanatam – Service Delivery & Account Manager (Bangkok)
If the vaccine works really well, I will consider visiting my friends abroad in Mainland China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Vietnam, and Singapore. This will also depend on the COVID-19 regulations of my choice destination, with regards to quarantine and documentation, or other complicated processes travellers might have to go through at immigration.
Weighing the Pros and Cons of Contactless Payment
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Deniz Tekerek – Chief Executive Officer (Hong Kong)
I’m still quite comfortable dealing with cash whilst travelling – even though I haven’t touched cash in a long time, having relocated all payment options (Alipay, WeChat Pay, credit card) to my iPhone. Still, I loved my 2019 experience in Wuzhen, China. Local vendors would accept nothing but cash, despite being in the world’s leading cashless country. This helped the travel experience be all the more unique. Honestly, if I travel the same way I live on a day-to-day basis – what’s the point of travelling in the first place?
Photo by Muhammad Haikal Sjukri on Unsplash
Having said that, I don’t think that a comprehensive move towards a cashless society will majorly impact street stalls, as many have already adapted to digitised payments, directly benefitting from technology’s increased accessibility. When I lived in Shanghai, I would pay for strawberries from street vendors via WeChat, and that was only a couple of years ago.
Floris Vermeulen – Sales Director (Hong Kong)
I live in a small neighbourhood in Hong Kong, with small shops, and a range of restaurants and cafés – everything you need for a relaxing weekend. My wife and I like to stroll around the area with our dog. We never carry our wallet with us, only our phones, because we can pay contactless via integrated cards like the Octopus, as well as other credit cards. Some small shops also offer FPS (Faster Payment System) payment, which allows quick payment using a QR code and your bank app. It’s very convenient.
I do not like to deal with cash anymore. One of the only places in Hong Kong where cash is still used predominantly is in taxis – and even they are slowly moving into digitised payments with apps such as Alipay.
The lodging debate: resorts vs city hotels
Desmond Ko – Head of Partnerships (Hong Kong)
I would prefer to have a relaxing stay at a private residence, or a house in the outskirts of a city, as it’d be quieter, and more spacious. Parking facilities on the premises would also be ideal. Then, I could drive to nearby popular areas for food, or even a day visit.
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Karen Ng – Editorial Intern (Hong Kong)
Considering how long many of us have been cooped up indoors, I can readily acknowledge the appeal of resorts, with their pools and wide open spaces. In fact, I can easily imagine travellers flocking to islands and seaside hotels as soon as leisure travel resumes.
Despite this, the one place I look forward to visiting again the most is central Tokyo. I’m looking forward to the day when I can stay at a city hotel right in the heart of Harajuku, and for a few weeks, just work my way around the neighbourhood surrounding Takeshita Street. Over the course of my many visits in the past, I’ve become well acquainted with the district and its many boutiques and cafés.
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The two main criteria I’d look for in a hotel are its hygiene regulations and location – like everyone else in the post-pandemic travel scene, I’d want to stay somewhere clean, but I’d also want to stay somewhere accessible. My ideal hotel is surrounded by restaurants, and is in the heart of a fashion scene as exciting as Harajuku’s. In all honesty, I’d be satisfied with even a day-long trip, if it meant I could walk around the neighbourhood with a friend and simply submerge myself in the energy of the area.
Olivia Wu – Singapore Lead (Singapore)
Resorts are normally sheltered from the hustle-and-bustle of their cities. Many of them are created in a way that allows guests to request and receive everything they need on-site. They also provide personalised butler services allowing me to ask for anything reasonable, and get it without moving a hair.
It sounds kind of lazy, but it’s exactly what I need to put my mind off of problem-solving, and it would be a great way to fully connect with the present, and spend some time with myself.
How we like to immerse in a new city’s culture
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Reza Mokrani – Head of Sales Operations (Málaga)
Food comes first. I love food. A year ago, I travelled to San Diego for business, and discovered this food truck which crossed the border to Mexico on a daily basis and returned to the US to sell foods like fusion fish fingers. It was the best experience ever!
I prefer exploring the city by walking and going solo. Guided tours are not really my style. To me, they are too standardised, and there isn’t enough room for them to be tailored towards individual traveller experiences. I prefer to dive into the local culture, rather than experience the city from the eyes of the average tourist.
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Before departure, I have a routine where I check the likes of Trip Advisor and Lonely Planet, and talk to the hotel staff. When I refer to hotel staff, I don’t necessarily mean the front desk, as the concierge is always busy and I am quite impatient. I often talk to individual staff, as the ratio between concierge staff and the number of guests is often inefficient.
This online search process is quite time consuming as I need to search, read and then return to browsing once again. So far, no website has fully met my expectations – not from a content perspective, nor when viewed as UI, regarding things like available filters. I have specific standards when it comes to information or traveller needs when visiting a city. So instead of wasting time, I sometimes skip the search process completely and just approach the staff directly.
Wan Qing Chin – Marketing & Business Associate (Singapore)
My favourite way is through making friends with locals, and then getting their recommendations on their favourite places to eat. Their selections are more authentic, compared to the typical hyped-up restaurants, whose recipes might be edited to suit the tastebuds of tourists.
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I also love visiting museums. I can spend an entire day in the local museums just soaking up little nuggets of information about different artefacts. I enjoy people-watching, which could be the reason I don’t really enjoy guided tours. I feel that tours are only able to provide a touch-and-go experience, whereas I like to enjoy the country of visit at my own pace and learn the nuances of the city.
Olivier Dombey – Chief Operating Officer (Bangkok)
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It will sound strange to most people, but I no longer actively seek to immerse into cultures, or trips with similar aims – and above all, not in cities. I would choose a two week-long deep-sea scuba diving Liveaboard trip on a schooner, or an uncharted Trek, Campfire & Marshmallows experience in the Isaan Mountains with my family. I would choose these over any other trip offers, be they cultural or luxurious.
I see no beauty in concrete, office buildings, shopping malls, traffic, pollution, and yet-another-coffee-shop. I don’t think of them as places to best spend my leisure time. Unfortunately, cities are where museums, POIs, and history can be found – something I used to relish in the past, but no longer. This is a trade-off against cultural experiences in the comings and goings of city life, in favour of peace and quiet experiences in nature – a choice I am extremely comfortable with, at this point of my life.