Certainly if there is one acronym that characterizes our society, it’s FOMO, “Fear of Missing Out.” People are plugged into their smart phones, ipads, laptops, and social media platforms like at no other time in history, giving rise to descriptive phrases such as “weapons of mass distraction” (a particularly relevant term when you add up the number of fatalities caused by “wexting” while walking across busy traffic intersections).
In Japan there are “fasting” camps to wean teenagers off cell phones. In California programs such as “Camp Grounded” demand that campers check their electronics at the entrance and re-learn the impact of personal one-on-one social interaction, including the lost art of conversation and the lost skill of writing notes in proper English, rather than texting jargon filled with acronyms (IMHO).
Many of your travelling clients want to unplug—not only from their routines, but from the gadgets and programs that create this great FOMO culture. Here are five ways you can counsel your clients to pull the plug.
1. Qualify the Client. Some clients will tell you right off the bat what they are looking for: “I want to go fly-fishing in northern British Columbia where my office can’t find me.” Others may be a bit coy in revealing the true nature of their vacation: “I just want to get away from it all.” In both cases you need to ask questions to determine what the client has in mind, and also have the knowledge of destinations and venues that may satisfy the client’s needs. Unplugged travel is a growing niche market so it’s time to start a file of places to go and things to do.
2. Read Between the Lines. In the ideal sales scenario, the travel consultant reads between the clients’ lines, notes their behavior, picks out key words and phrases, and then formulates a game plan. Phrases such as “I hate my computer” are dead giveaways. So is a situation where the client’s phone keeps ringing and each time, before answering, the client makes a face and says, “Why can’t they just leave me alone.” You can then suggest alternate vacation ideas where phones don’t ring and computers don’t chime.
3. Take It Easy. No, not the famous Eagles song, but a philosophy of going slow and taking small steps to achieve big goals. The rule of thumb is that “You have to disconnect in order to reconnect.” Some clients may choose to go cold turkey, spending a week at the Eiheiji Temple in Fukui, Japan, walking amongst the cedar trees, breathing fresh air, listening to the monks chanting. Others may choose a two-hour bicycle ride in the countryside around Hoi An, Vietnam, where, for this short time period, they can’t check their messages. In both cases the clients are thrilled and energized at their accomplishment. Both see value in the activities, with only the methodology differing.
4. Earthing Options. Earthing is the art of appreciating the land; often referred to as “terroir” tourism (from the French word for land). The goal is to first unplug your clients from their electronics and then plug them into elements of the earth: destinations, people, participatory experiences, culture, food, history, geography, and ultimately, the value that the client expects from the vacation.
5. Fight Fire with Fire. Come up with reconnecting strategies that detract from techno-destractions.
- Sonic Travel: The emphasis is on listening. Bird watchers love this type of travel, as it tunes them into various bird calls that result in sightings, photos, and delight. Sonic travelers seek out the sounds of silence: nature, waterfalls, the wind, the waves, and the sounds of people talking or children playing. But also keep in mind that some travelers are revitalized by city sounds; this is their way of relaxing. That’s why qualifying the client is so important.
- Visual Serendipity: Serendipity refers to the chance discovery of something that is pleasing. Examples of visual serendipity range from natural landscapes to the jaw-dropping beauty of a magnificent temple in the middle of a simple rice field. For the selfie-addicts, visual serendipity challenges them to place the image in their mind, memory, and provenance (all the things that make up who they are) rather than on Pinterest, Instagram, Flickr, and Facebook.
- The Morning Mantra: Yes some people actually get out of bed at 5:00 a.m. to see the destination in a totally different light (literally): watching locals sweep the street, smelling breakfast cooking; being the first visitors at the morning market; thrilling at a sun rise from a hot air balloon. These are all rewarding, techno-free experiences.
- Take It to the Limit: Again, not just an Eagle’s song. It’s a myth that unplugged travel is always laid-back and low-energy. Hiking and trekking; zip-lining; riding horseback or camel or donkey; camping under the stars; cruising and scuba are only a few activities that plug clients into their endorphins as opposed to their WiFi.
- Peaceful, Easy Feeling: (Ok, ok, this is a reference to the Eagle’s song.) Unplugged travel embraces many niche markets, including faith tourism, culinary encounters, yoga and meditation, human interaction (going out of your way to smile and chat with locals), shopping tourism, chocolate tourism, and more. Think creatively, offer to customize, and let your imagination loose!
Do your clients a favor by pulling the plug on their next vacation. Channel them into the type of travel experience that best suits their needs and best represents the value and peace of mind they seek.
Steve Gillick is president of Talking Travel/Gillick's World in Ontario, Canada, and media chair of the Travel Media Association of Canada, Ontario Chapter
Pic: Moyan Brenn