Researchers argue that 'understanding how the smartphone shapes the touristÂ experience cannot be separated from the way it is used in oneâ€™s everyday life', to theÂ extent that 'everyday life and travel should not be viewed as completely separatedÂ entities, but rather special cases of each other'.
The impact of technology on travelÂ evolves, they suggest, â€śas the traveler gains experience using new technologiesâ€ť and theÂ benefits those technologies bring.
Smartphone use is most definitely transforming our daily lives, allowing us to listen toÂ music, take photographs, socialise with friends, obtain information and make purchasesÂ wherever we want. This should have clear implications for travel, but the researchersÂ note that tourism is still seen as somehow distinct from everyday life.
It is time thatÂ travel is no longer seen as â€śa temporary reversal of everyday activitiesâ€ť that essentiallyÂ involves â€śa no-work, no-care, no-thrift situationâ€ť, they argue. With friends and family â€"Â and the workplace â€" now just a swipe away, it is increasingly difficult to truly switch off,Â leading to a â€śdecapsulationâ€ť of the tourist experience.
The researchers argue that there is a â€śmutual penetration of the experiences from theÂ travel context and everyday life contextâ€ť. Although keeping in constant contact withÂ those at home and having a wealth of information about the destination in oneâ€™s pocketÂ may diminish the sense of adventure and escape, it can enhance the travel experience.Â
Yet even though there is a great deal of evidence that tourists use mobile technologyÂ before, during and after their trips, a thoroughly convincing explanation for why that isÂ occurring has not been put forward.Â
Most often, technology adoption is seen as being influenced by perceived usefulness,Â ease of use and the potential for risk, without any appreciation of how that adoptionÂ takes place over time. This, argue the researchers, â€ścontributes little to ourÂ understanding of how smartphone use actually shapes trip planning and, consequently,Â the tourist experienceâ€ť. Instead, they suggest that smartphones structure our everydayÂ lives in certain ways, which in turn influences how we travel.
To determine the extent to which smartphone use spills over from everyday life intoÂ tourism, the researchers carried out in-depth interviews with experienced US travellers.Â The interviewees owned and used smartphones running one of the top three operating Â systems â€" iOS, Android and Blackberry. They had also travelled for leisure at least threeÂ times in the past year, with at least one trip occurring in the three months leading up toÂ the interview. Finally, they subscribed to unlimited data plans, which was likely toÂ encourage the most frequent smartphone use.
The interviewees were fairly evenly divided between the sexes and represented a wideÂ range of age groups, from 18-30 to 61-70. They were asked about their everyday use ofÂ smartphones, the subsequent changes in their communication and informationÂ consumption, and whether smartphones had influenced both their â€śtravel planning andÂ experienceâ€ť and the â€śfunctions and information servicesâ€ť they used while travelling.Â
The uses to which the interviewees put smartphones in their daily lives fell into fiveÂ broad categories: communication, entertainment, online social networking, informationÂ search and acquisition, and facilitation (of services such as banking and navigation).Â
Although the uses varied by interviewee, a remarkably common narrative emerged.Â Most interviewees would wake up to the smartphone alarm and then browse the news,Â connect to a social network or read email. They tended to listen to the radio or music onÂ the way to work, periodically check the weather, news and stock prices during the day,Â shop, collect travel ideas or pay bills during lunch hours, and watch TV and/or surf theÂ Internet in the evening.
The majority of the interviewees said that â€śsmartphones were more or less part of theirÂ lifeâ€ť. The devices made them feel â€śmore connectedâ€ť, â€śmore informedâ€ť, â€śmoreÂ innovativeâ€ť and â€śmore productiveâ€ť.
The researchers identify five distinct ways in which smartphones changed theÂ intervieweesâ€™ lives: increased communication with family and friends, the filling of allÂ downtime, increased information search activities, greater interest in exploringÂ technology and the partial replacement of laptops/desktops. The latter change inÂ particular is transforming activities that were once location-specific to those that can beÂ performed anywhere. That transformation is further fuelled by the multifunctionalÂ nature of smartphones, the researchers note. Everyday activities such as listening toÂ music, navigation and taking photos used to be completed separately with mp3 players,Â GPS and cameras before smartphone use, but now these can be performed â€świth onlyÂ one deviceâ€ť.
Given that smartphones are concentrating our use of technology and making us moreÂ aware of its benefits, it should not be surprising that the researchers found considerableÂ overlap between the everyday and travel uses of smartphones. Uses during travel largelyÂ originated in the intervieweesâ€™ daily lives â€śbecause of habits and social norms andÂ obligationsâ€ť.
Of the activities that smartphones influenced or reshaped during daily life, only aÂ handful differed when it came to the travel experience. These understandably includedÂ such travel-specific activities as flight tracking and check-in and hotel booking. WhenÂ describing their smartphone use during travel, the interviewees were explicit about theÂ â€śspilloverâ€ť effects. For instance, they noted â€śthat they felt more social obligationsÂ during trips because they got used to frequent communicationâ€ť in their daily lives.Â
Hence, â€śroutines and habits were carried to the context of travelâ€ť, the researchersÂ explain.Â When the interviewees described the changes in the tourist experience brought about byÂ smartphone use, they were almost universally positive and largely in accord with those Â experienced in everyday life. The greater connectivity that the devices afforded helped the informants to feel â€śmore connected with family and friendsâ€ť, â€śmore secureâ€ť andÂ â€śless isolatedâ€ť. The entertainment options made available allowed the interviewees toÂ â€śbe themselvesâ€ť while travelling. Facilitation apps afforded greater convenience, andÂ enhanced information acquisition and search abilities provided the flexibility to re-planÂ and re-schedule while travelling.
As the researchers put it, smartphone use â€śclearly has the potential to substantially alterÂ the tourist experienceâ€ť, largely through extending â€śthe structures and spirit ofÂ smartphonesâ€ť to the travel context. This, they write, helps to â€śde-exoticiseâ€ť tourism byÂ confirming it as â€śa special state of technology use that is connected with other settingsâ€ť.Â Practitioners should be aware of â€śthe interconnectedness of different locales, contexts,Â and channels of information and communication for todayâ€™s smartphone-equippedÂ touristsâ€ť, they conclude.