Washington: A recent study reveals that tourists also undertake an emotional journey when they disconnect from technology and social media during their travels. The study published in the journal, 'Travel Research' investigated how engaging in digital-free tourism impacted travellers' holiday experiences. It involved losing access to technologies such as mobile phones, laptops, tablets, the Internet, social media and navigation tools.
The findings came as the demand for so-called 'digital detox' holidays which is on the rise. Lead author Dr Wenjie Cai, from the University of Greenwich Business School, said, "In the current ever-connected world, people are used to constant information access and various services provided by different applications.
"However, many people are increasingly getting tired of constant connections through technologies and there is a growing trend for digital-free tourism, so it is helpful to see the emotional journey that these travellers are experiencing," added Dr Cai.
Our participants reported that they not only engaged more with other travellers and locals during their disconnected travels, but that they also spent more time with their travel companions. As well as looking at emotions Dr Cai, working with Dr Brad McKenna of UEA's Norwich Business School and Dr Lena Waizenegger from AUT, used the theory of affordance to understand the loss or gain of technological opportunities while travellers engage in digital-free tourism.
For example, Google Maps affords navigation and when taken away, the participants lost the ability to navigate, which caused anxiety for some. Dr McKenna said the findings have valuable implications for tour operators and destination management organisations to gain a better understanding of travellers' emotions when developing 'off-the-grid' packages or tech-savvy tour products.
"Understanding what triggers consumers' negative and positive emotions can help service providers to improve products and marketing strategies. The trips our travellers took varied in terms of lengths and types of destinations, which provides useful insights into various influencing factors on emotions," said Dr McKenna.
We found that some participants embraced and enjoyed the disconnected experience straightaway or after struggling initially, while for others it took a little bit longer to accept the disconnected experience.
Many also pointed out that they were much more attentive and focused on their surroundings while disconnected, rather than getting distracted by incoming messages, notifications or alerts from their mobile apps. In total 24 participants from seven countries travelled to 17 countries and regions during the study. Most disconnected for more than 24 hours and data was collected via diaries and interviews.
By talking to other travellers, especially locals, many reported that they were given excellent advice and learned more about sights, places, and beaches that were not on any tourism websites or guidebooks, but were a highlight of their trips.
Once reconnected, many participants said they were upset and overwhelmed as soon as they saw all the incoming messages and notifications they received over the days they were disconnected. However, having enjoyed the engagement with locals and physical surroundings during disconnection, some decided to have another digital detox in the future.