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Cayman Blog from The Reef Resort in Grand Cayman

OFF: The New Buzzword for 2008?

The following article by Nina Zapala, who we are proud to note is part of our creative team (and PR Director) at The Reef, gives great food for thought for planning that next vacation.

Of course you can use your Blackberry and WiFi at The Reef, but Nina’s article is something we could all consider.

Personally, I just came back from vacation in the Scottish Highlands, in a place where there was no cellular service, so it felt good to disconnect the Blackberry entirely !


One word that I am predicting may topple this year’s media favorites (some of which are authentic, geo-tourism, Al Gore, and living green) is the word “off”. Today’s travelers aspire to experience an authentic “off” destination, become educated on a destination’s culture and lifestyle, submerge themselves via a return to nature and/or the days of uncomplicated fun: Arts and craft fairs, carnivals, food festivals, and more.

Most people do not realize that during a course of one week they receive over 304 work emails and another 274 personal emails, according to Jupiter Media. These numbers reflect averages and do not take into consideration what a top executive or CEO receives, or for that matter, many of the travel writers I speak with receive thousands of emails daily.

Another recent article also supports my predication of the “off” button becoming a new trend. BusinessWeek penned an article – (11.19.07), entitled “Overloaded Kids turning to Low-Tech”. Although many adults may have the same issues, our youth today have monumental pressures to stay connected. Think text messaging, maintaining their Facebook and/or their YouTube sites, or dealing with their second life Avatar or creating a family of Littlest Pets via a virtual pet social network. The problem is children today are over-communicated, and become anxious trying to keep up with it all. They crave down time to just disconnect and get involved with simple, easy-to-use products and activities. The article in BusinessWeek coined a phrase called “analogue living” which speaks to the idea of children turning off and tuning in to what was once a simple and uncomplicated life reminiscent of their parents’ childhood. What was once thought of as un-cool is now very cool – think carnivals, kite flying, food festivals, and yes, cloud watching. In a nutshell, anything that is easy and offers a human component.

As far as high-end executives are concerned, many are now looking to find destinations that do not cater to their hi-tech needs. They want to power down and stay in the off-mode. How can anyone really enjoy the riches before them if they are attached to a machine with a flurry of never-ending demands? To really gain the most joy and fulfillment from the precious moments a vacation provides, be it culture immersion, learning a new activity or just soaking up the sunshine while relishing the best barbeque and beer within a tri-state area, “off” is an option that both young and old alike will choose.

“Off” is already starting to have an impact, as I recently visited a magical 5,500-acre resort in the Pocono Mountains, Skytop Lodge, (www.skytop.com). All guests were politely but firmly told to turn off all cell phones, Blackberries, etc., as we were all headed to a wonderful place called Goose Pond, home to black bears, beavers, foxes, and more. It was a clear, sky blue day, and we did see hints of animals on our walk. Everyone powered down and really focused on the walk, asking great questions and actually learning about the area and the animals and learning a bit about one another as well. It was a very refreshing experience for all who attended.

Several other places I noted are also about keeping it “off” and I am sure there are hundreds of more. Lake Austin Spa Resort, Texas www.lakeaustin.com encourages guests to restrict usage of cell phones, etc., to their rooms during their stay, while Where You Want to Be Tours also discourages the use of cell phones and pagers on their walking adventures urging participants to “tune into their spirit of adventure” www.wheretours.com.

How can hoteliers tap into the “off” idea? A few ideas are stated above, but the best advice is to seek activities that drive guests to turn off their cell phones and encourage total immersion in the activity at hand. Hence, the rise in spiritual vacations reported by the Miami Herald, on 12.23.07. Think back to the days of yesteryear when the annual arts and crafts fair showcased artisans carving, weaving or sculpting one-of-a-kind creations. Think carnival days where hot funnel cakes, water-shooting pistols with prizes attached, and strolls to catch the next act were the mainstay of entertainment. Take a tip from Where You Want to Be Tours as a big city property can develop a tour that offers off-the-beaten path eateries, boutique shopping, historic stops and architecture of note. Food and music festivals, cultural events and more provide “off” opportunities for any visitor, at any age.

Of course, 2008 will usher in more sophisticated technology, and yes, learning about a place via a podcast or V cast is wonderful, but while a guest is actually on vacation ask them to take the “off challenge”. Yes, they may look at you like you are crazy, but isn’t that half the fun? At the very least you may stimulate them to think, “Do I really need to answer these emails right now?”

Pose to guests the old 80/20 rule, were 80 percent of the emails coming in are junk while only 20 percent really matter. In the long-run what is more important, a satiating vacation experience or time spent with your Blackberry or iPhone? It should be easy to answer when you think in those terms.

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