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Something for the weekend: Sun, Sand & Smartphones

OK, we know what we'll be doing on our holidays (and thank you to Orange Rag elf JG was sending in the picture – spotted outside a wine bar in Fleet Street since you ask, the sign that is, not the elf) however it seems according to some new research that 95% of holidaymakers jet off with at least one internet-enabled device in their luggage and half demand daily access to content no matter their location.*

More than half of all Europeans take at least one holiday each year, which means some 250 million people are well-versed in planning what essential items to squeeze into their luggage. New research from Brocade (Nasdaq: BRCD) shows that, along with sun cream and swimsuits, 95% of European holidaymakers take at least one internet-enabled device with them and are simply not prepared to switch off from email (work or personal), online entertainment or social media sites.

Half of those surveyed plan to access the internet at least once a day while more than 40% actively seek destinations that offer always-on connectivity, from anywhere at anytime, placing a huge burden on service providers and leisure facilities to ensure adequate coverage in even the most remote of locations. For example, 25% of these sun-seekers reported that they have accessed content from the beach, and, amazingly, 4% have found time to log on in the jungle.

“The findings just go to show that in 2011, we are hugely connected, no matter what we are doing, and we fully expect to be able to get online from anywhere in the world,” said John McHugh, VP & chief marketing officer at Brocade. “With nearly half of the people we spoke to relying on connectivity to stream audio or video files while on holiday to enhance their relaxation time, businesses need to consider what the modern traveller wants. Whether it's a hotel or beach bar, failure to deliver online services could not only damage brand equity but also jeopardize the bottom line.”

Internet penetration in Europe** far exceeds the global average – 67% versus 27% and the number of users has grown almost 260% since 2000. Users today demand ubiquitous access to content, from wherever they might be, which has seen use of mobile devices soar in recent years. IDC, for example, say smartphone sales more than doubled year-over-year in the first three months of 2011, seeing almost 100 million devices sold. Add to this the fact that video and TV streaming will soon surpass web and internet traffic, and it is easy to see how modern consumer habits are changing, even in terms of planning vacations around Internet connectivity.
According to the research, typical holidaymakers take at least one mobile device with them, such as a laptop, tablet or smartphone. The majority of respondents rely on these devices to stay in touch with friends and family at home, with 40% freely admitting that they cannot be separated from their social media tools. Nearly a third of respondents use their devices on holiday for work reasons – such as checking emails, downloading documents or just being available to customers and co-workers – despite almost 60% admitting that it occasionally causes friction with their travelling companions.

Other key findings included:
– 64% of respondents were aged between 25 and 44, indicating that the professional age group is driving the need for always-on connectivity
– Of the respondents, 84% relied on smartphones while on holiday, favouring ultra-portable devices over bulkier devices, such as laptops
– Half of those surveyed continued to use their devices (personal or work) abroad just as if they were at home, with more than three quarters regularly downloading personal email and 48% accessing work email/documents
– Only 7% never accessed the internet while on holiday

* Yes, we know we publish a story like this every year – although when we first started publishing, it was portable fax machines people were taking to the beach.
** Except in Norfolk where the broadband & mobile signal coverage is so poor that even refugees from the Third World complain about the poor connectivity.

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