Technology: helping tourists cheat on vacation

Staff at Longleat Safari Park’s Hedge Maze, in Wiltshire, south-western England became increasingly curious when guests to the tourist attraction started exiting from the labyrinth in minutes instead of taking the usual 90 minutes to complete.

Impatient visitors began turning to the technology in their pockets. This resulted in them finding their way out of the two-mile long labyrinth in minutes using GPS and images from Google Earth on their phones. The British maze claims to be the world’s longest hedge labyrinth, made up of 16,000 yews that were planted in 1975, covering an area of 0.6ha.

Tim Bentley, attractions manager at Longleat said

The maze, whilst hugely popular, is also hugely frustrating as, with all true mazes, it has been designed to confuse, but just recently we noticed more and more people are finding the exit a lot quicker than before. I didn’t realize why until I went in there with my brother-in-law. After 10 minutes of getting lost he just said, ‘I’m fed up with this’ and pulled out his iPhone, which told him where he was and where he needed to go. Although the hedges are seven feet tall you quite often see people holding their phones aloft while looking for a signa.

Mr Bentley said he started to observe people and noticed it was a “bit of a trend”, especially with the young. Unlike most mazes, it is three-dimensional, with six bridges crossing the paths below. More than 400,000 people get lost in the maze every year.

Mr Bentley said he wasn’t sure what to do about the spoilsports:

It might not be in the spirit of the maze but we can’t very well tell our customers to turn their phones off when they go in.

Visitor Paul Roberts, 29, a mechanic from Bristol, south-western England explained his take on the matter:

I came here six years ago and spent more than an hour trying to find my way out. It was so frustrating that at one point I called a friend in London to see if he could look at a map of the maze online and direct me out but that didn’t work.

He said he made sure his iPhone was fully charged this time round.

I gave myself 15 minutes to try and find my way out by myself but after that I gave in and turned to my iPhone – it worked a treat.

Science and Tech
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