“We do not have Wi-Fi…talk to each other. Pretend it is 1995” read a café board in Annapolis, Maryland, a picture of which went viral on Facebook in December 2015.
What makes cafés and restaurants put up such displays nowadays? These are supposed to be places where colleagues, friends, and families connect over a bite or a drink. But well, the first question from a customer who walks in today goes, “Do you have Wi-Fi?” The vibrant spaces where people once interacted and forged bonds now look, feel and sound like digital libraries, thanks to our dependence on technology.
We keep our eyes so fixed on our cell phones and laptops all the time. But even while the current generation is mostly tech-dependent and cannot afford to disconnect from their gadgets, they’ve surprisingly begun to differ, in thought and action. Their fast-paced lives, obsession with being online and the information deluge incessantly hitting them makes them crave a respite. For a limpid break of sorts, they usually reckon leisure traveling, coupled with a ‘digital detox’ that is a good remedy.
Internet overload has led millions of people in the UK to take a “digital detox”, according to research from regulator Ofcom. The study of 2,025 adults and 500 teenagers forms part of Ofcom’s annual Communications Market Report, which assesses the state of the digital nation.
But what is a ‘digital detox’?
Digital detox is an act of taking time off from the digitally addicted lifestyle that is habit for much of today’s population. It requires switching off all gadgets to enjoy the screen-free time while exploring more active alternatives of enjoyment.
Statistics reveal how the sentiment of a ‘tech-free break’ is now snowballing and catching the fancy of today’s traveler. The Ofcom’s Communications Market Report, 2016, reveals that one in three adult internet users have sought a period of up to a month offline, with one in ten admitting to having done so as recently as the previous week. For a third of the people studied in the report, staying online for too long prods them to go for a complete break offline.
What this trend means for the travel industry
For the information overloaded travelers of today, a popular way of detoxifying is leisure travel. People are much more likely to frequent national and international visits today than they did in the past. International tourist arrivals shot up by 4.4% in 2015 reaching a record total of 1,184 million, the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, May 2016 reported. Around 50 million more tourists traveled to international destinations around the world last year as compared to 2014. Another report by eMarketerer in July 2016 predicted that the growing appetite for leisure travel among the middle-class travelers, particularly those from developing countries, will drive the global expenditure on digitally booked trips to reach a whopping $817 billion by 2020.
So we can say that an increase in traveling trends, especially leisure traveling, will continue.
Digital detox holidays are seen as a good time to switch off, with 16% of travelers choosing destinations with no internet access and 9% actively seeking places with no mobile signal.
What hotels can do
Are you a digital detox hotel? While hotels have been busy devising innovative ways to serve the tech-savvy generation, now is the time to up the game a bit and tap into the whole new market of digital detox enthusiasts. You can begin by taking baby steps, even as more strategic plans are brought into action. For one, hotels can offer exclusive stay arrangements for guests seeking a tech break to prioritize their booking preferences.
1. Bring back the ‘connection’
Social media makes adult internet users feel sociable, but brings out the opposite in them. It makes them lose the real-world connection with each other. A report by HVS Global Hospitality Services 2013 revealed that 58% of millennials prefer traveling in groups. So yes, travelers prefer company. But are they ‘sociable’? They aren’t. Addiction to technology keeps them from being truly social.
This is a gap that travel experts can bridge by creating opportunities where travelers can interact with like-minded people. A company like Contiki makes millennials meet other millennials, often from different countries, intelligently creating unique stays to tap into guest satisfaction.
2. Simplify the choices
Hotel guests today are bombarded with a plethora of food, clothing, gadgets, and whatever you name. While varying choices and facilities add to the comfort that hotels try to bring, simplifying their guests’ lives is another responsibility they need to shoulder. Doing so can actually help hotels aid the ‘detox’. Something as simple as limiting the variety of food items to only the most authentic cuisine on the menu can make guests’ feel sorted. Sometimes, a flavor of the good-old, simple times is all they need for a refreshing vacation.
3. Explore tech-free entertainment alternatives
Some hotels have taken the lead by asking guests to switch off their phones during a leisure stay, but you can’t leave it at that. Alternative options of enjoyment and connecting with people must be provided. Engaging activities as a part of guest sentiment analysis, such as dance, music and yoga workshops, relaxing massages and hobby classes for cooking and crafts can act as perfect icebreakers. Providing avid readers with libraries and reading clubs is another way of bringing guests back to the pure joy of book reading. Even something as simple as a bonfire night for a group
of hotel guests can be an experience memorable enough for them to consider a return for their digital detox vacation.
While some hotel brands have pushed as far as offering robotic bellhops to tech-savvy visitors, now is a ripe time to slow down. Embrace the ‘tech-free’ wave and re-evaluate the changes in visitors’ tastes. Travelers are humans first. More than anything else, they will always cherish a tranquil connection with reality, nature and themselves.
About the author
Yogeesh Chandra brings 14 years of extensive experience in hospitality at corporate and hotel level with special emphasis on price optimization, revenue management, hospitality technology and training. He now heads the account management division for the RateGain and is responsible for client relationships and product advisory functions through a team of retail and enterprise account managers, training managers, knowledge center professionals and pre-sales specialists. Prior to this, he was in Revenue Management roles at cluster and property levels across different countries and has worked for IHG, Taj, Millennium & Copthorne, Castle Hotels and Resorts, SKYCITY Casino and Hotels and The Leela Group.
Yogeesh has developed pricing and service standard models using social media and presented his case study at the Cornell Hospitality Research Summit in Ithaca in 2012. He has authored several whitepapers and thought leadership pieces that have been published in industry specific media. He has completed post graduate studies at Pacific International Hotel Management School, New Zealand and graduated from Institute of Hotel management, Chennai. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Commerce.