Pause and en­joy the mo­ment

THE SWITCHED-ON TOURIST

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Destination Afloat - DAVID CAR­ROLL

TOURISM com­pa­nies are us­ing mo­bile de­vices to con­nect with trav­ellers like never be­fore. With phone or tablet in hand, switched-on hol­i­day-mak­ers look for in­spi­ra­tion, con­sider what fel­low trav­ellers have to say, book flights, ho­tels and ac­tiv­i­ties, then share ev­ery mo­ment with friends.

Some op­er­a­tors run com­pe­ti­tions en­cour­ag­ing smart­phone own­ers to em­brace their de­vices. One of the most re­cent was con­ceived by Queens­land’s Hamil­ton Is­land; users of pho­to­shar­ing site In­sta­gram were in­vited to com­pete for spots at In­staMeet week­ends. Win­ners were flown to the is­land to join celebri­ties and In­sta­gram stars in a se­ries of ac­tiv­i­ties, dur­ing which they posted hun­dreds of im­ages that were seen by mil­lions across so­cial net­works such as Face­book and Twit­ter.

Now Queens­land’s Sun­shine Coast is gen­er­at­ing head­lines but this time by en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to switch off. In an ef­fort to bat­tle phone de­pen­dency, the desti­na­tion is pro­mot­ing the Smarter Smart­phone Code of Con­duct (SSCOC), which is a list of sug­gested ways visi­tors can un­plug them­selves from tech­nol­ogy.

The SSCOC sug­gests build­ing a phone-free day into your itin­er­ary, switch­ing off your de­vice be­fore you eat or sleep, and re­sist­ing the urge to in­ter­rupt an ex­pe­ri­ence by send­ing a photo or text. Op­er­a­tors of at­trac­tions, lo­cal busi­nesses, ho­tels and taxi com­pa­nies have been re­cruited to pro­mote the ini­tia­tive.

Sun­shine Coast Desti­na­tion Lim­ited chief ex­ec­u­tive Si­mon Am­brose says the in­ten­tion is not to dic­tate be­hav­iour. ‘‘We un­der­stand how im­por­tant mo­bile de­vices are and we want ev­ery­one to check in and tell oth­ers how won­der­ful it is when you’re here,’’ Am­brose com­ments. ‘‘But some­times peo­ple do find it hard to dis­con­nect, par­tic­u­larly from work. We­just want to help them find a lit­tle more bal­ance.’’

It’s a clever idea that taps into a grow­ing sus­pi­cion that our re­la­tion­ships with mo­bile de­vices are be­com­ing more than a lit­tle dys­func­tional. A sur­vey this year in Bri­tain, for in­stance, re­vealed that No­mo­pho­bia (that is, ‘‘no mo­bile pho­bia’’, or anx­i­ety caused when peo­ple are de­nied the use of their phones) af­fects 66 per cent of Brits, up from 53 per cent in 2008 when the quasi-clin­i­cal term was coined.

There is no doubt an ob­ses­sion with mo­bile de­vices is man­i­fest­ing it­self in silly or rude be­hav­iour. Air­line pas­sen­gers have been thrown off flights for re­fus­ing to switch off, rail com­pa­nies have been forced to cre­ate quiet car­riages, and some re­tail­ers are re­fus­ing to serve jab­ber­ing cus­tomers.

The need to cap­ture or share the mo­ment is also putting peo­ple at risk. Run­ners in next year’s Hong Kong Marathon, for ex­am­ple, could be banned from car­ry­ing smart­phones in case ac­ci­dents are caused by par­tic­i­pants stop­ping to take self­ies.

The ob­vi­ous ques­tion is whether an app has been de­vel­oped to help fight this smart­phone ad­dic­tion. The an­swer is, of course, yes — it’s known as Pause, a free app avail­able so far only for iPhones that asks you to set a pe­riod to be off­line and nom­i­nate an ac­tiv­ity to com­plete in your down­time.

Then it prompts you to dis­able your phone by switch­ing to ‘‘air­plane mode’’. Look it up next time you’re on hol­i­day. David Car­roll’s col­umn on new travel tech­nol­ogy ap­pears reg­u­larly in T&I.

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