Pause and enjoy the moment
THE SWITCHED-ON TOURIST
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.