/ Technology, Travel & Leisure

Do you need more digital services while you’re on holiday?

Thomson and Butlins are both embracing the digital age with new initiatives to make guests’ lives easier. But can too many electronic temptations distract you from fully enjoying the destination experience?

Thomson has been trialling a new interactive advice service for tourists booking to stay at the Sensatori Resort (Thomson’s upmarket hotel brand) in Crete. Now, instead of relying on the holiday rep’s welcome meeting to find out more about the hotel and local area, you can contact your iAdvisor by the video link of a Hangout on Google+ before you leave the UK.

And if you need advice once you’re there, you can tweet questions from your sun lounger – the reps will check the Twitter hashtag feed on their tablet and answer your questions.

Improving the holiday rep service

This seems like a sensible move as we’re all now used to getting instant advice online whenever we want it. And some of the comments from Which? members who took part in our 2012 Travel Companies survey indicate that there’s definitely room for improvement as reps have proved to be rather elusive when needed. One said:

‘We didn’t see the Thomas Cook rep until the night before leaving to return to the UK.’

Another commented:

‘The rep service was terrible – never saw the rep once. Particularly poor as he was only based in a hotel five minutes’ walk away.’

Overall, Thomas Cook reps achieved a rating of two out of five stars in our survey, with Thomson reps slightly more appreciated with three out of five stars.

A new wave at Butlins

Other companies in the tourist industry have been going digital too. Even Butlins – which some people probably associate with hi-de-hi rather than wi-fi – has thrown the technological kitchen sink at its Wave Hotel, which opened this July at the Bognor Regis resort.

The hotel, which I visited last week, is geared particularly to tech-loving families with pre-teenage kids. Download Butlins’ augmented reality app, then hold your smartphone up to hotel murals and an octopus suddenly moves towards you. While the children play on iMacs, Wii consoles or Batak machines in the neon Games Port, parents can borrow a Kindle or iPod from the library.

But can too many technological temptations on holiday be a bad thing? Kids there even have their own built-in TVs with DVD player and Freeview channels at the end of each bunk bed. This may mean they’ll spend more time doing things they could have done at home rather than exploring the resort and local area, and meeting new people.

Do you think that travel companies and hotels should include more digital services in general, or do you go on holiday to get away from technology?


We have holidays so we can escape – no tech, no gadgets, no phone calls. Can’t stand it when we see someone getting out their plaything near the pool.

If you use the word “escape” for technology, then you obviously don’t like it much. Some of us do like technology and to be without it would degrade the enjoyment of our holiday. When I go on holiday, I take my laptop and get local SIM cards so I can carry on using my iPhone, paying the same as a local pays.

I like the idea of having electronic help (why would I want to take time out of my holiday to go to a meeting with a rep?!) but I think they’re overplaying the help being offered here. Yes, being able to meet with your rep via G+ hangouts before will save having to have a meeting while you’re on holiday. But having reps monitor a Twitter hashtag? To be honest, that’s the least I’d expect from a company that had a Twitter account – it’s not so much a new and innovative thing, it’s something that lots of companies have been doing for a while and seeing the value of. A while ago companies probably wrote excited press releases about the fact that they were now providing an email address on their website =) I think as more people use social media (whatever the platform – Twitter and facebook will eventually be replaced by new upstarts) more companies will see that having a presence there is crucial.

Regarding gadgets – I think I agree with John Ward – I tend to go back to basics when I’m on holiday, and I quite like it. i don’t have a smartphone or my laptop – I just have a map to get around the city. I feel more relaxed and I think I pay more attention to my surroundings when I don’t have a screen to look at. Having said that, I would still probably head to an internet cafe/hostel with wifi once every couple of days or so, as I feel the need to check email, etc. But it’s interesting how much life changes when you only have the internet during short bursts rather than being permanently connected.

Nina – Try life for a couple of weeks entirely without the internet. I can assure you the world keeps revolving. What’s the point of going back knowing everything? Spoils the pleasure of people trying to bring you up to date. And don’t tell me you’ve stopped sending postcards to your friends and relations! We know what you mean when you say “. . . check email, etc”.