The digital revolution as some call it has brought many benefits and conveniences to people worldwide. It has certainly made travel easier and, in many ways, more interesting. Travel destinations can be explored on smartphones, information combed, and bookings made. Digital devices have unchained business people from their desks and allowed real-time communications through many online channels.
There can be little doubting that many people just love their phones. However, there is mounting evidence that using smartphones is addictive and that it can harm a persons mental and physical health. An article in The Wall Street Journal suggests that smartphone use lowers ones intellect (Carr 2017). Chang (2017) identifies the following eight (8) dangers of excessive phone use:
Injuries and accidents
Reduced attention span
Disconnection with friends and family
Damage to the spine and neck
So, digital devices have their good and bad sides for people, and we can call this a digital dilemma. Undoubtedly, this device overuse is becoming a greater social and medical problem, as well as raising many human resource management issues in workplaces. Taking a somewhat more focused view, however, in what ways does this digital dilemma impact travel and travel flows?
In answering this question, one interesting opportunity that has arisen for destinations and tourism operators is the detox offer. Here, for a price, visitors or guests give up their smartphones and other digital devices for a day, weekend, or longer. For example, the Westin Paris Vendme offers detoxers the following invitation:
In these times of hyper-connectivity, The Westin Paris- Vendme proposes an extraordinary offer. As soon as you arrive, you will be invited to deposit your mobile phones, tablets, laptops and other devices in a safe at the front-office. Then, the hotel has prepared plenty of nice surprises to indulge yourself, clear your mind, relax, in other words: revitalize yourself!
The Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Manhattan, New York, offers a Digital Wellness Escape for $255-345 with spa treatments Concentrating on the head, eyes, neck, shoulders, hands and feet, this restorative treatment aims to ease the stress and strain resulting from the frequent use of digital devices.
In addition to hotels and spas, some tour operators are also offering digital detox vacations and holidays. For example, Intrepid Travel (2017) is offering a nine-day Vietnam Active Family Holiday Digital Detox with this call to action:
Log off, shut down and disconnect from tech on this nine-day adventure through Vietnam. Forget the perfect filter or condensing your journey into 140 characters this is your time to reconnect with the world around you.
Unplugged Weekends is another company offering short-break retreats that focus on living without ones digital devices. They were featured on a BBC documentary in 2014 about digital detoxing.
In summary, while many tourism marketers are encouraging people to make greater use of digital devices when traveling, others are inviting visitors to enjoy travel without their cherished tools.
ANSWER THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS
Why do you believe people take digital detox breaks like those described above?
Would you take a digital detox holiday or vacation? Why or why not?
Is digital detoxing a short-term trend? Or is it destined to become a permanent aspect of society? What are the reasons behind your opinions on this question?
How can destinations and tourism businesses take full advantage of this counter-technology trend?