More people staying connected on vacation

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Christine Vogt found that the number of people using smartphones on vacation has tripled. (view larger image)

Scanning smartphones, tablets and laptops is as much a part of vacations as slathering on sunscreen, according to a Michigan State University (MSU) study.

The results, which will appear in the forthcoming issue of Annals of Tourism Research, show that easy online access and ubiquitous personal devices have made the digital divide disappear, even for folks on holiday.

“Not that long ago, travelers would need to find a payphone or send postcards to brag about their vacations; now they just log on and send photos and text,” said MSU AgBioResearch scientist Christine Vogt, who co-authored the study with Kelly MacKay of Ryerson University (Canada). “Our results show clearly how the changing nature of information technology behavior in everyday life is spilling over into our vacations.”

The study showed that the number of people using smart phones has tripled. The study also revealed that wireless use was higher on vacation (40 percent) than at home (25 percent). Also telling were figures that show that people used the Web more to plan vacations (80 percent) than for work (70 percent).

“Travelers are using their laptops and phones more often, and not just to plan vacations,” said Vogt, MSU professor of community agriculture, recreation and resource studies. “Since Wi-Fi is available at most destinations, tourists are checking local weather forecasts, transportation schedules, restaurant recommendations, fishing reports, safe bicycling routes and much more.”

Pulling out computers, iPads and smartphones at home and work is addictive, and it looks as if the habit doesn’t take a vacation, she added. Future research will give the tourism industry insight into the best ways to serve vacationers’ online needs.

“We hope to conduct more research across the various stages of vacations,” Vogt said. “This will help vacation service providers better understand what information travelers are looking for during trip planning and how it differs from the details they’re searching for after arrival.”

In addition to funding by MSU AgBioResearch, the study was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

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