According to the Travel Media Group, free WiFi is the top amenity guests want in a hotel, calling the service “no longer a luxury, but a necessity.”
But that might be slowly changing, along with our definition of what a vacation really should be. Recently I emailed a friend and received the following reply:
“Hi there, I’m on vacation at a resort I picked because it charges for WiFi 🙂
If you need something urgently, please contact xxxx. Otherwise I’ll be in touch once I’m back in NYC!”
The implication being, of course, that she was definitely not paying for WiFi. It was the first time I’d seen the idea of a service charge for WiFi being considered a plus rather than a minus in choosing a vacation destination.
The good news is that my friend is apparently not alone. As Quartz’s Rosie Spinks wrote in March, “the new travel luxury is going offline.” In fact, the trend is most popular among the generation that’s most connected. Spinks cites a study by Intel Security that found that 49 percent of Millennials would rather vacation unplugged versus only 37 percent of those aged 40 to 50. And yet 68 percent of all U.S. respondents said they check their email at least once a day while on vacation. And 55 percent of those who actually planned on unplugging while they were away ended up not being able to go through with it.
Clearly we need help – a growing number of us want to unplug on vacation, but disconnecting in our always-on culture isn’t easy. One way to do it is to go completely off the grid. Sure, that will get you off-line, but it also means trekking to places like Patagonia, the Arctic Circle, or the Outback.
But there are a more hotels that are answering the call, allowing you to unplug without having to sit through a 17-hour flight. On some of its properties, the Wyndham Grand resort chain has a program called “Reconnected,” which offers reductions for guests who go phone-free. “People spend so much time, effort, and money planning family vacations and we wanted to help them make the most of that time together,” Wyndham’s Noelle Nicolai told Quartz. “‘Reconnected’ challenges families to trade in screen time for quality time by putting down the phone and engaging in creative play—complete with all the amenities families need for a magical experience—together.”
In the Grenadines, guests at the phone and WiFi-free Petit St. Vincent Island and Resort use little flags if they need room service. “We do have some new guests arrive and ask about options of having Wi-Fi in their cottages, but we feel that if it’s there, they will use it all day, so we decline,” said General Manager Matt Semark.
Even more extreme is the Villa Stéphanie, at Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa in Baden-Baden, Germany. Here the walls are lined with iron to keep out wireless signals. “In a world where people are connected practically around the clock, there is a need for places of retreat where it is possible to relax and focus on yourself,” said Managing Director Frank Marrenbach.
Wherever in the world you’re looking to get away to, you can always, like my friend, just pick the place with the most expensive WiFi you can find, which will make it easier to resist paying for it.
So as we approach Memorial Day and the unofficial kickoff to summer vacation season, I hope you’ll figure out one way or another to take a true vacation by taking yourself offline as much as you can, in order to more deeply connect with yourself, others and the world around you. I know I’m planning to!