Ten Years After

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Indy Lifestyle Online
PERHAPS NICK Leeson took the British Airways Travelguide to Singapore when he first went East. It was just the accessory for Eighties yuppies: the 10-page guide was perforated for personal organisers. "Singapore is the banking centre of South East Asia," it promises, "with 100 commercial banks operating 296 banking offices." Plenty of prospects there, then. In 1989, the long haul to Singapore had just got shorter, with the introduction of advanced Boeing 747-400 aircraft that could reliably cover the distance between the UK and the island.

BA's travelguide was part of a series aimed at guiding visitors through the intricacies of abroad: "Most taxi drivers understand English even if they do not speak it... If you are charged more than indicated on the meter, take the driver's number and report him to the Tourist Promotion Board." In my experience, taxi drivers in Singapore are still prone to rounding down the fare to the nearest dollar.

A decade on, some of the advice looks positively archaic: "Telegram rates to UK: 80c-$1.60 per word, depending on urgency." An e-mail these days is virtually free. The "Further Reading" suggestions are barely rivetting: one is Hints to Exporters: Singapore, published by the British Overseas Trade Board. At least British Airways tried; the series has now gone by the wayside.

Simon Calder