New research reveals the emotional journey that tourists continue when disconnected from technology and social media while traveling.
The study, conducted by the University of East Anglia (UEA), the University of Greenwich and the Technical University of Auckland (AUT), examines how digital engaging in tourism has an impact on travelers' experiences. It includes the loss of access to technologies such as mobile phones, laptops, tablets, the Internet, social media and navigation tools.
The researchers, who also participated in the study, examined participants' emotions before disconnecting, during disconnection, and after reconnecting.
Posted in Journal of Travel Research, the findings show that there was initial anxiety, frustration, and withdrawal symptoms among many travelers, but later increasing levels of acceptance, enjoyment, and even release.
The findings come as demand for so-called "digital detox" holidays grows.
Corresponding author Dr. Wenjie Cai, Greenwich Business University:
In today's always connected world, people are used to having constant access to information and various services provided by different applications.
However, many people are increasingly tired of the ongoing connections through technology and there is a growing trend of non-digital tourism, so it is helpful to see the emotional journey these travelers are experiencing.
Our participants reported that they not only became more involved with other travelers and locals during their interrupted trips, but also that they spent more time with their companions. "
In addition to examining emotions, Dr. Tea, working with Dr. Brad McKenna of the UEA Business School in Norwich and Dr. Lena Weisenegger of AUT, uses fitness theory to understand the loss or gaining of technological opportunities while travelers are engaged in non-digital tourism. For example, Google Maps provides navigation and when taken away, participants lose the ability to navigate, which causes anxiety for some.
Dr McKenna said these results have valuable implications for tour operators and destination management organizations to gain a better understanding of the emotions of travelers when developing "offline" packages or tourism products that are sufficiently robust.
"Understanding what triggers consumer negative and positive emotions can help service providers improve products and marketing strategies," said Dr. McKenna. "The trips our travelers take vary in length and types of destinations, which provides a useful idea of the various influencing factors on emotions.
"We find that some participants embrace and enjoy the interrupted experience as soon as or after struggling initially, while others take a little longer to accept the interrupted experience.
"Many also pointed out that they were much more attentive and focused on their environment while not connected, rather than distracted by incoming messages, notifications or alerts from their mobile applications."
A total of 24 participants from seven countries traveled to 17 countries and regions during the survey. Most severed links for more than 24 hours, and data were collected through diaries and interviews.
Talking to other travelers, especially locals, many report that they have been given excellent advice and learned more about sights, places and beaches that were not on any tourism website or guide but were the highlight of their trips.
After reconnecting, many participants said they were upset and overwhelmed as soon as they saw all incoming messages and notifications received on the days they broke off. However, after enjoying the interaction with the locals and the physical environment while disconnecting, some decided to have another digital detox in the future.
Various factors influence how travelers perceive tourism without digital tourism. Participants are more anxious and dissatisfied with urban destinations because of the need for navigation, immediate access to information, and the search for digital word of mouth. On the other hand, those in rural and natural destinations tend to have withdrawal symptoms associated with not being able to report safety or kill their time.
Participants traveling as a couple or in a group tend to exclude themselves more confidently than single travelers. They report that they suffer less or even have no negative withdrawal symptoms when traveling with fellow travelers; while solo travelers tend to feel vulnerable without the technological help of buffering cultural differences, such as unfamiliar language.
On a personal level, withdrawal symptoms are usually more severe for travelers who have engaged in non-digital tourism with many social and professional engagements. They are also more likely to experience negative interruptions. Some participants tried but could not disconnect during their travels because they did not feel safe and thought they would be lost or because they had private engagements that did not allow them to be unavailable.
"Turn Off: Emotions in Travel without a Digital App" Wendy Kai, Brad McKenna and Lena Weisenegger Journal of Travel Research on August 14, 2019
University of East Anglia