Since well-being, including digital well-being, as a concept has a high level of granularity in everyday life, encompassing many individual and external factors (Scaria et al. 2020), various issues emerge for the tourism domain as well. The following section conceptualizes a digital well-being continuum between everyday life and the tourism domain, raising new questions and pointing to new roles and responsibilities that emerge for the tourism industry (Fig. 2).
Understanding digital well-being as a new well-being philosophy: responsibilities and convergence of approaches
Digital well-being needs result from a complex mix of socioeconomic, psycho-physiological and technological influences that all converge on the individual consumer struggling to maintain a balance (Vanden Abeele 2020). However, digital well-being cannot be created solely relying on individual capabilities and therefore is not an exclusively individual responsibility (Beetham 2016; Nansen et al. 2012). Similarly, Gui et al. (2017) state that digital well-being is a state to be realized not only by the individual via personal skills but also one that relies on broader, societal characteristics that determine norms and establish common patterns of behavior. Society, in this regard, is understood as the collective of actors that have the power to affect individual levels of digital consumption. This includes technology providers who should support (Grissemann and Stokburger-Sauer 2012) the co-creation of digital well-being together with consumers.
Tourism, as a highly technology-dependent industry, both in service provision and delivery, represents a continuation of digitally-led everyday consumer lives. As such, it represents the verge where digital well-being philosophy meets the existing tourism philosophy and triggers re-thinking towards a new, digital well-being focused mindset. In order to sustain digital well-being within the tourism domain, tourism policy-makers and tourism industry members should first acknowledge the issue in order to be able to embrace the new roles and responsibilities that emerge from it.
While the issues brought about by technology over- or mis-use are becoming more pertinent and therefore apparent to the tourism industry, the industry’s complex structure and heterogeneity of players represent significant challenges in embracing digital well-being as the new and generally accepted core of tourism philosophy (Pyke et al. 2016). Here, additional efforts have to be put forward to facilitate the convergence of existing digital well-being approaches for everyday life (for example, understanding of digital well-being in the EU's digital transformation initiatives as a primary issue in the health domain) and those currently present in the tourism industry (for example, holistic and unified approach to digital well-being in the form of digital wellness promoted by the Global Wellness Institute). Digital well-being requires unique boundary-crossing and demands that specialists who have never before worked together now need to collaborate and co-create new solutions. This multi-sector, boundary-spanning approach is novel (Abraham 2015) and requires rethinking also in the fields of tourism education and training, academic research and industry practice. Smart tourism development could potentially facilitate the process with its emphasis on government-industry collaborations and new governance mechanisms but currently fails to embrace digital well-being as a core goal.
Integrating digital well-being into the fabric of tourism
After incorporating digital well-being into the general tourism philosophy, the next step in moving forward on the digital well-being continuum would be to address digital well-being as a tourism product resource. This could be done through the creation of new, or adjusting of existing business policies that support achieving digital well-being for specific stakeholders in the tourism domain. In either case, the framing of digital well being for tourism purposes will face most of the well-being barriers identified by Pyke and colleagues (2016). These barriers are related to digital well-being as being too broadly defined and having different interpretations with varying underlying consumer preferences. Digital well-being branding, although emerging among some technology providers (e.g., Samsung Health product line) is still novel and inconsistent. The network of digital well-being initiatives is in its infancy, despite some non-profit organizations that push the agenda (for example, Center for Humane Technology), and some state-run initiatives and projects for digital well-being targeted explicitly at youth or older people. Initiatives in tourism are dispersed and uncoordinated.
Some consumer trends are unfortunately going against the digital well-being agenda, such as shorter trips or over-dependency of tourism experiences on technology. Infrastructure for digital well-being, less prevalent in some locations or spaces, can present a significant barrier to digital well-being, either by its absence or by its inadequacy. Financing of digital well-being investments represents an issue for fragmented, small business-heavy tourism sectors that typically rely on the initiatives, research, product and service development of major technology and tourism players. Thankfully, well-being products such as stress and energy monitoring and mindfulness exercises first introduced by the major wearable technology providers are now becoming a standard feature for smaller manufacturers as well, opening up the playing field and introducing less costly options to the market.
Since there are different approaches to measuring both individual and national well-being, digital well-being policies in tourism should be adopted at both the state level (Hartwell et al. 2013), and by the industry (horizontally and vertically). For instance, digital well-being could be understood as an underlying philosophy and could be assessed and tackled in collaboration between tourism and technology providers (Mizrachi and Gretzel 2020). In that case, all smaller players in the supply chain (for example, in the context of global distribution systems it would be online travel agencies and destination service providers) would be, by default, sensitized and equipped to participate in enabling digital well-being for consumers, thus, promoting digital well-being through mass customization.
Well-being is already an integral part of organizational ethics in tourism (Pearce et al. 2001), and it should cover all stakeholders, not just tourists. Here, digital well-being concerns of tourism workers stand out as one of the most significant issues faced in the tourism domain. Intense information overload, stress and burnout due to over-use of technology in the workplace are critical issues to be considered (Farrish and Edwards 2019). Furthermore, as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an expectation that more jobs, including tourism-related ones, will become more digital and virtual (Gretzel et al. 2020), thus, making them more susceptible to technostress. Therefore, in addition to already existing solutions that address corporate well-being, there are new initiatives to develop comprehensive platforms for increasing employees' engagement in digital well-being through initiatives facilitated by artificial intelligence and gamification techniques (Guerrini 2019).
Digital well-being tactics: from luxury to mainstream and back
Digital well-being as a tourism product resource is currently mostly considered to be a luxury (Stankov and Filimonau 2020). This is in line with a common perception of wellness as a luxury activity through which individuals actively seek good health, which is further fueled by current trends in tourism and marketing efforts implemented by the tourism industry (Fickel et al. 2018; Scaria et al. 2020). For example, it would be a severe disadvantage for a luxury hotel to not be equipped with wellness facilities (Heyes et al. 2015), while they are not expected in budget hotels. In terms of digital well-being, there are views that consumers who use their phones the most are the ones with the least access to digital detox programs (Buck 2018). Similarly, as an important emerging aspect of subjective well-being, the pursuit of mindfulness is mostly the interest of those less socioeconomically burdened (Andrews 2009; Stankov et al. 2020a, b). Furthermore, most current prominent programs for digital well-being, such as the use of Industry 4.0 technologies in the health tourism sector (Parekh et al. 2020; Wong and Sa'aid Hazley 2020) and in wellness service creation and provision (e.g., virtual reality spa treatments, ultrasound therapy or data-driven wellness retreats) (Baldwin et al. 2020; Parker 2020), still rely on relatively expensive technologies.
There are views that digital well-being, like some other wellness trends, promises more than it can deliver (Pardes 2018). The reason for this lies partly in the lack of strict guidelines for tourism providers in relation to creating or conserving digital well-being. Here, we continue our argument that mass technology and large-scale tourism providers should lead and promote the trend and pass it on to other players within the tourism supply chain, allowing for the mass customization of the digital well-being agenda. Furthermore, to create a customized product for different players across the diverse tourism market, a generally accepted notion of digital well-being is needed to guide such mass customization (Cecchinato et al. 2019). A commonly agreed upon the conceptualization of digital well-being should make the whole agenda more tangible for all stakeholders, providing a better understanding of consumer needs and expectations within different aspects of the tourist experience and the new roles and requirements expected from providers.
There are many arguments in favor of turning digital well-being into a mass trend for the tourism industry. One of the main practical arguments lies in the fact that many aspects of digital well-being could be delivered using existing technologies (e.g. smartphones and tablets) already globally available. New low-cost wearable technologies related to connected health and specialized wellness technology (well-tech) gadget emerge rapidly (Pasqualini 2020; Perez-Aranda et al. 2019). The awareness of technostress is often already present among younger generations that are the most frequent and passionate users of technologies (Glazzard and Stones 2019). Innovation in well-being is now more than ever related to the growing interest in smart tourism environments and destinations (Coca-Stefaniak 2020; Hjalager and Flagestad 2012). By finding new ways to use pervasive smart technologies for wellness purposes (Lee et al. 2018; Trencher and Karvonen 2019), a door for mass application and widespread digital well-being recognition is opening. Another argument in support of mainstreaming digital well-being in tourism is that the negative consequences of technology use disproportionally affect vulnerable and marginalized groups (Demir and Kutlu 2016; Soule et al. 2016). Providing them with access to digital well-being using readily available means within well-known tourism experiences could be seen as a valuable coping strategy and a new target for the emerging responsible tourism agenda.
It must be noted that the advanced use of digital well-being concepts should still be welcomed for luxury tourism and will continue to create opportunities for product differentiation and further development of the traditional wellness tourism market. In conjunction with the current notion of unplugged tourism, luxury tourism can continue to provide more extreme technology-free leisure and recreation offerings, focusing on the complete cleansing of the mind and body, even including the treatment of technology addictions (Pawłowska-Legwand and Matoga 2020). We label this continuing trend "digital well-being mastery" and expect that it will remain reserved for those who actively seek to achieve good health and well-being within the luxury or unconventional tourism sector (Bjelajac et al. 2020).