Digital detox: the rise of tech-free tourism

Tech-free tourist destinations are gaining popularity among business travellers looking for a true detox from the digital world.

Mobile smart phones have ensured that the average Australian executive is now on-call 24/7. More than 8 million Australians now have a smartphone and that number is increasing at a faster pick-up rate than any other Western country.

Add Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media platforms and nobody is unreachable, even on holidays. Many business folk are choosing to switch off from the barrage of constant communication. Literally.

"When we fully 'switch off' we're then better able to fully 'switch on'," explains Professor Timothy Sharp from the Happiness Institute. "This involves switching off from digital communication and allowing ourselves to both physically and mentally 'get away'."

This need for digital peace may account for the rise in "tech free tourism" as dubbed by a recent Australian study from the University of Wollongong by Professor Ulrike Gretzel and published in the International Journal of Tourism Sciences.

"Even though people put an absentee notice on their emails there is still an expectation that you will still look at it," says Dr Gretzel. "We have had some people in our study tell us that when they stumble into dead zones on holiday they feel more immersed in the destination and become more relaxed."

If you are looking for a resort that respects your need for digital detox there are many that specifically request that should you bring your mobile phones and laptops that you do not use them in public places.

The stress hormone, cortisol, can instantly rise when confronted by mobile phone conversations, the tapping of laptop keyboards and the sound of a ringing phone. Which is why guests that choose to break celebrity favoured Chiva Som Wellness Retreat in Hua Hin Thailand's strict rule of "no mobile phones outside of guest rooms" will be asked to leave.

If that's not enough then there are no landlines at the eco Nihiwatu Resort in Sumba. Nor is there a satellite phone and your mobile phone will not find reception on the 400 hectares of private bushland on the white sand beach. Which may be why the French fashion Hermes family book in for a month every year and the visitor's book is filled with media moguls and surfing elite attracted to the private surf break out front.


Emirates six-star Wolgan Valley Resort and Spa at Lithgow in New South Wales is surrounded by ancient escarpments, 200 million-year-old wollemi pines and hundreds of wild kangaroos. Not even Telstra's nationwide network can be picked up out here so leave your mobile phone at home and embrace nature (or the all inclusive mini bar).

Six Senses Resorts were one of the original tourism brands to push the slow life movement with a promoted "no news no shoes" policy. The romantic Six Senses Soneva Fushi on a private atoll in the Maldives is a totally black hole zone, and proud. Who needs the buzz of a telephone ring when watching a movie in your private outdoor starlit cinema?

The eco safari camp Sal Salis on the shores of Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia also proudly boasts no televisions and no telephones. Guests immerse themselves in the clear reef waters on their posh tent doorstep and meander in the Cape Range National Park.

Islands are the obvious choice for tech-free tourism. Queensland's luxury Lizard Island is also proud of their no mobile phone coverage status on their 24 private beaches. If your office needs to get you hear they have to call the front desk, so best not tell them where you are going.

Guests at Tonga's private white sand Mounu Island, a 2½-hectare coral atoll in the Vavau archipelago, bed down in one of only four fales for two with no televisions and no phones. Instead humpback whales, and the island's schnauzer Otto, provide entertainment for the digitally starved executive. Add three gourmet organic meals a day and a barefoot way of living and you will want to throw away your phone forever.

California's uber lush Post Ranch Inn, a Preferred Hotel, perches on the cliff tops of the Big Sur coastline with Pacific Ocean views to sink into. Cars are not allowed past the reception lodge, the grounds are dotted with private walks through Redwood forests and the stand-alone guest villas come with no televisions, no clocks, no phones - nothing to remind you of the world outside.

The coral isle of Denis Island in the Seychelles features secluded beach front villas and a private air strip. No mobile phone coverage, no televisions, no dress code and no front door keys. Just hawksbill and green turtles, ocean sports, snorkeling and a massage in the courtyard of your personal villa. All tariffs are fully inclusive so you don't need to even carry a wallet.

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