The Sunday News
THE whole idea of a vacation is to unwind and escape from the hustle and bustle of the work and home environment.
This in turn has great rewards for physical and mental well-being. Digital technologies have revolutionised tourism and hospitality in remarkable ways.
Service automation has tremendously enhanced service efficiency and quality. Information dissemination and access have been elevated to levels previously unimaginable. While there is a general tendency to focus on the positives of digital technology in tourism and hospitality, there is also the flipside that if not managed can erode the essence of holidaying.
New media technologies tend to be highly addictive and controlling, almost to the point where the “user” becomes the “used.”
In the process the escape aspect is defeated. A vacation where a person is physically away from the pressures of home and work but mental presence is maintained through technology can never be absolutely effective.
Unfortunately, many “holidayers” of today fall in this category. Digital elasticity has stretched the home and business environment into the holiday experience.
It has effectively blurred boundaries between the everyday settings and the holiday settings.
While people desire to “get away” on vacations and embrace the freedom to live in the moment without a care in the world, the safety versus escape tension arises as a result of anxiety about their safety in unfamiliar environments, concern about the well-being of others left behind and business.
There are some of us who do not believe the world can go on without us for a second, but the reality is that things will find their way to normalcy even after we are dead.
Another reason why people want to have their gadgets with them is to post their holiday images and messages in real time on social media.
A vacation should revive, renew, revitalise and reinvigorate both the body and the mind. Pursuant to this ideal of total wellness, there is a need for people to have unplugged vacation experiences once in a while.
These are “off the grid” holiday experiences affording guests the Joy of missing out (JOMO). Such experiences are enjoyed at remote escape havens without internet connectivity and mobile reception or where guests’ digital devices are locked away by management.
A diluted version is where guests are allowed limited time with their devices before they are taken away.
This translates to digital detox, which is very healthy. Unplugged vacations, also known as dead zones are highly rewarding and transformative from a wellness view point. People should learn to live without these digital devices, at least for a moment.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), physical health risks associated with over-exposure to digital devices, especially computers include musculoskeletal disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, spinal disorders, digital eyesight strain, lower back pain and severe trauma.
WHO also list psychological risks that include addiction, withdrawal (feelings of anger, tension, anxiety and depression when the internet or digital devices are not accessible) and negative repercussions or conflict manifesting in self-imposed social isolation and disintegration, lying, arguing, poor academic and occupational performance and fatigue.
Although not very popular in this part of the world, unplugged or ‘black hole’ resorts are occupying critical space in tourism and hospitality in other regions especially the Asia-Pacific where the resorts charge very high fees to give their guests a ‘go back to nature’ experience providing only basic living conditions.
Because of their simplicity, they tend to go green and this earns them respect and good will, which is good for marketing.
Apart from digital detox as a means to achieve wellness, unplugged resorts may also offer other forms of therapy including spa treatments, fitness exercise and healthy cuisine.
Zimbabwe has numerous locations greatly suitable for servicing this niche but in order to generate market interest in ‘off the grid’ experiences, it may be necessary to find ways to incentivise guests to unplug.
Phineas Chauke is a Tourism Consultant, Marketer and Tour Guide. Contact him on +263776058523, [email protected]