Scope & Concerns

The Tourism & Leisure Studies Research Network explores two key phenomena of contemporary times, each of which is currently undergoing striking processes of transformation.

Leisure is a domain of relative freedom and pleasure positioned in contrast to the necessities and duties of paid or domestic work. All human societies have modulated work with leisure, moments of dutiful exertion with moments of recreational pleasure. Today, the nature and place of leisure activities are undergoing transformations influenced by changing social norms, economic realities, and mediating technologies. What is the nature of these socio-historical changes? How can the study of leisure, as a bounded domain of investigation and as grounded site for the exploration of more general social phenomena, provide a unique insight into the nature of these socio-historical changes?

Whereas leisure is a universal in all societies, tourism is a principally modern phenomenon. Tourism is the social practice of travel, primarily for the purposes of leisure. Although affluent minorities undertook limited tourism before modern times, mass tourism is a phenomenon that began in the mid-nineteenth century with the affordable railway ticket. Today, more than one billion tourists travel each year, and their spending represents a significant and growing sector in the world economy. This is also a time of dramatic change in modes and markets for tourism. This affects questions of economics, management, and employment in the burgeoning tourism and leisure industries. Critical social and ethical issues accompany this transformation, including questions of sustainability, cultural interaction, local impacts, and variable access to opportunities to tour.