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Travellers 'engaged more with locals and each other' during holiday tech detox

The i logo The i 13/08/2019
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Tourists who ditch smartphones and other distracting gadgets engage more with locals and are more likely to spend time with their fellow travelers, a study has found.

Teams from the University of East Anglia (UEA), University of Greenwich and Auckland University of Technology observed how travellers fared on holiday without the comforts of phones, tablets and laptops and tracked their emotional well-being throughout.

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While many of the 24 participants experienced  initial anxiety, frustration and withdrawal symptoms from technology, they later accepted it and reporting enjoying and even feeling liberated by the separation.

"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 Brad McKenna from UEA's Business School.

"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."

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The tourists travelled to 17 countries and regions during the study, published in  the Journal of Travel Research, kept diaries and gave interviews throughout their disconnection, which generally lasted more than 24 hours.

They reported feeling much more attentive and focused on their surroundings while disconnected from their gadgets, free from the distractions of incoming messages and notifications.

Those in couples or groups felt more confident in disconnecting than the solo tourists, particularly when travelling with one or more people who were still digitally connected.

Individuals journeying through urban areas felt more anxious and frustrated at not being able to navigate and access information instantly, while those in rural destinations were more concerned with not being able to communicate to friends and family they were safe or to kill time.

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A significant proportion of participants said talking to locals had encouraged them to learn more about sights and destinations than from information listed on tourism websites and guidebooks.

Reconnecting to technology caused many of the travellers to feel "upset and overwhelmed" when they saw the influx of messages received during their absence, and some vowed to try another digital detox in the future.

Other were unable to disconnect fully over fears they would get lost, feeling insecure of because they had "private commitments that did not allow them to be unavailable."

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