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North Hills Monthly

Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel Introduces Digital Detox to Help Guests Unplug

Apr 30, 2018 04:58PM ● By Vanessa Orr

For many of us, the idea of not having a cell phone or computer immediately available is almost unthinkable. In fact, in a survey of cell phone users, the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction found that around 90 percent of Americans fall in the category of overusing, misusing or abusing their devices.  

Taking a break from these electronics isn’t easy, however. It takes a whole lot of willpower, or perhaps, a hotel that will help you with a digital detox.

“After the initial ‘shakes’ are over, people start to relax and realize that maybe they weren’t really connecting while living in the digital world,” explained Craig Bollman, director of sales and marketing for the Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel, which has introduced a Digital Detox package. 

The package includes a one-night stay in a Deluxe King Riverview room, breakfast for two and vouchers for relaxing activities such as kayaking or biking. But here’s the catch—guests surrender laptops, cell phones and other devices at check-in, and don’t get them back until they’re ready to leave. There is also no TV or iPod docking station in the room, though books, playing cards and board games are provided.

“When I talk to people about the package, they say things like, ‘I’m connected 24/7,’ or ‘My phone stays on the bed right next to me, even while I sleep,’” said Bollman. “There really is no downtime. We’re trying to encourage people to put the phone down for a while—once they do, relaxation takes over.”

Of course, being in such an amazing city, visitors are going to want to take pictures—and the hotel has an answer for that, too. 

“We want people to take home memories, but also something that they can physically touch,” said Bollman. “So we decided to go old school—we loan them a Polaroid and give them two 10-packs of film. With only 20 shots, they have to really think about the pictures that they’re taking—it’s not like they can take 250 photos and just get rid of what they don’t want.”

Being without a computer or cell phone also means not having the Internet—which means having to figure things out the hard way. “We had a couple from the United Kingdom visit, and they were stumped by the Polaroid; they couldn’t look up instructions on how to use it online,” Bollman said. “Then when the dark test photo came out, they thought that they had broken it.”

Bollman said that those who grew up before all of these electronic devices were a part of everyday life tend to do a little better on the detox than Millennials, who were born with this technology in hand. While the package was originally designed for couples, Bollman has also been fielding questions from a number of families who are interested in introducing their kids to more old-fashioned fun.

While the package is offered year-round, the hotel is currently running a contest to give someone the chance to get unplugged at the hotel for a night. Entrants just need to submit a story on the Renaissance Hotel’s website explaining why their nominee desperately needs a break from technology. Nominations will be accepted until May 15, 2018.

“We’ve gotten some pretty creative dissertations as well as one-line answers,” said Bollman, adding that they’ve even received nominations from Alaska.

“We really hope that people try the package; since we’ve been offering it, I’ve started to put my phone away if I don’t have to use it and have been playing board games with my kids,” he said. “It the most fun thing in the world—and there isn’t an app for that.”

To enter the contest or to learn more, visit