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Would you turn off your phone if it meant a free hotel stay?
Traveling used to be all about being in the moment and experiencing a new destination. Now, for many of us, it’s also about getting that perfect Instagram picture. In fact, according to combined research, the average person spends more than four hours a day on their device. That’s a quarter of your waking hours.
Well, one hotel in Sweden is trying to change that.
Hotel Bellora, in Gothenburg, has a room called the “Check Out Suite,” where guests are incentivized to stay off their phones. The room has a Skärmfri (Screen-free) smart lamp that tracks how much time you spend online when you log on to the Wi-Fi.
The lamp produces standard white light, but will progressively turn red after you’ve been on for 30 minutes: the recommended duration for recreational screen time. And your room rate is directly based on your internet usage; the less you’re online, the less your room costs.
According to AdAge, the lamp accounts for 30 minutes per person, or two hours total, and the rate assumes a family of four in the suite.
That’s right. If you stay off the Wi-Fi altogether, the stay will be free. But, the price increases the longer you stay online, until you have to pay the full rate: 2,400 Swedish Krona (about $265).
While Hotel Bellora is certainly giving guests good reason to put down their cell phones and spend more time together — or, perhaps, just causing travelers to accrue major data roaming charges — it appears the offer may be short lived, as the suite must be booked by Jan. 31.
But the Check Out Suite is hardly the only player in the incentivized digital detox space.
This fall, several Wyndham Grand properties challenged guests to stay in vacation mode (and off their phones) by offering special amenities to travelers who went “phone-free” at pools and restaurants. The initiative started after they noticed people were sitting on their phones all day at the beach and bringing an average of three devices with them.
The problem with this, of course, is much greater than the risk of getting sand in your iPhone. When travelers refuse to look away from their screens, they’re simply not benefitting from the rejuvenating potential of “getting away.”
According to a study in the Journal of Applied Research in Quality of Life, people are returning to work with lower energy because of vacation-related stress caused by access to technology.
“Before the pull of technology, we would never dream of wasting time on our phones instead of jumping straight into the pool and soaking up every minute of our vacation,” Lisa Checchio, chief marketing officer at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, told The Points Guy. “But, in our research, we found that digital devices are totally changing the way we travel as families.”
So, to combat the problem, the hotel chain launched Reconnected, a Wyndham Grand Family Experience, where they encourage quality time over screen time.
Travelers willing to put their phones in a locked pouch that only a staff member could open enjoyed better spots by the pool and free snacks, and Wyndham is in the process of developing new perks as they expand the program in 2019.
Incentivizing the Digital Detox
Earlier this month, a trio of Grand Velas Resorts in Mexico announced a new digital detox program for travelers.
Guests who opt-in have a so-called Detox Concierge “cleanse” the room of technology. The television is replaced by classic board games, and all personal electronics are removed (so long, smartphone). In return, guests are given a bracelet that lets them participate in complimentary activities. Think: free massages. After four activities — that’s four totally tech-free days — are completed, they get back their electronics.
In Arizona, Miraval Resort banned phones in public areas and has staff members wearing badges that say, “Unplug and be present.”
And one hospitality company even made it their mission to encourage people to disconnect. Getaway set up cabin rentals outside of New York City, Boston, Washington, DC and other metro areas with the sole purpose of encouraging people to disconnect. How?
There’s no access to Wi-Fi at these intimate cabins. Instead, there’s a lockbox specifically designed for storing away cell phones — and a list of questions travelers can use to spark conversations with their travel companions.
So, could ditching your cell phone become the hottest new hotel amenity?
“We’ve had hundreds of families participate [in our Reconnected program] so far,” said Checchio. “And those who do tell us they wish every moment could be so memorable.”
Feature image by Rawpixel on Unsplash.
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