By Clare Riley, Content and Editorial Manager, SiteMinder
With friends, family, and work just a swipe away, smartphone use is ‘spilling over’ from everyday life into travel experiences, and substantially influencing the behaviour holidaymakers.
That’s the verdict from a study published by leading researchers from the School of Hotel and Tourism Management at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
Researchers carried out in-depth interviews with experienced travellers in the US who:
- owned and used smartphones running iOS, Android and Blackberry
- had travelled for leisure at least three times in the past year
- subscribe to unlimited mobile data plans – encouraging frequent use
Ranging from ages 18 to 70, interviewees were asked about their everyday use of smartphones and whether smartphones had influenced the planning of their travel, as well as the functions and information services they used while travelling.
While the interviewees were found to use their mobile phones in slightly different ways, the research team found a remarkably common pattern of daily behaviour.
Most interviewees would wake up to the smartphone alarm and then browse the news, connect to a social network or read email. They tended to listen to the radio or music on the way to work, periodically check the weather, news and stock prices during the day, shop, collect travel ideas or pay bills during lunch hours, and watch TV and/or surf the Internet in the evening.
But the research went far beyond general daily use of smartphones and honed in on the travellers’ behaviour and interactions with their devices during their recent trips. Here are 4 fascinating observations:
1. Travellers are replacing the holiday essentials
As mobile devices continue to partially replace laptops and desktops computers, activities that were once location-specific are now able to be performed from anywhere. Travellers are increasingly leaving mp3 players, cameras, and travel guides at home – choosing instead to carry a smartphone which can encompass all these things.
2. Travellers feel obliged to update their friends and family online
The findings showed considerable overlap between the everyday and travel uses of smartphones. Travellers said their daily smartphones use crept into holidays because using mobile devices has become the norm. They feel it’s necessary to keep up with social obligations, such as updating friends and family via social media, because they’re now so used to frequent communication in their daily lives.
3. Travellers feel less isolated and more secure
When the interviewees described the changes to their tourist experience brought about by smartphone use, they were almost universally positive. Travellers said they felt more connected with family and friends back at home, more secure and less isolated.
4. Travellers are forgetting how to switch off
Travel used to be seen as a carefree way to escape the stresses of everyday life. And while that is still the case, travel is no longer seen as a complete reversal of everyday activities. With the online world, just a touch away, it is increasingly difficult for travellers to truly switch off, leading to a watering down of the tourist experience.
The research team from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University undoubtedly found a direct correlation between travel and everyday smartphone use. And while keeping in constant contact with those at home and having a wealth of information about the destination in a pocket may appear to diminish the sense of adventure and escape, technology can also enhance the travel experience in many ways.
Of course most holidaymaker experiences start with the research of booking options – often on a mobile device. It’s crucial for hoteliers to reach these guests by distributing rates and availability online using a channel manager and internet booking engine, just like the technology offered by SiteMinder. Hoteliers must catch up with the online world and appeal to guests who feel increasingly attached to their mobile devices.
And you can read more about the changing landscape of online distribution and how to attract guests by downloading our free eBook – How to diversify your hotel’s distribution strategy.