Can Tourism Provide Real Health Benefits?

Many people probably have heard about music or art therapy, but what about tourism or travel therapy? A new paper from Edith Cowan University (ECU) proposes that we consider holidays as recreational activities and an industry that can improve the lives of millions of people.

A recent partnership between ECU’s Centre for Precision Health and School of Business and Law found that vacationing could benefit your mental health.

“Medical experts can recommend dementia treatments such as music therapy, exercise, cognitive stimulation, reminiscence therapy, sensory stimulation, and adaptations to a patient’s mealtimes and environment. These are also often found when on holidays,” said Dr. Jun Wen, lead researcher of this paper.

According to Dr. Wen, tourism allows various opportunities to incorporate treatments for people with dementia. One such example is that new experiences and environments can provide mental and sensory stimulation, which is vital for those who have dementia.

For instance, traveling often involves enhanced physical activity that improves mental wellbeing, such as more walking. Also, on holidays mealtimes are often different, which can be a significant benefit: they’re more social and can help dementia patients. As well as having many other benefits, getting out into the fresh air and sunshine can also increase your vitamin D and serotonin levels.

“Everything that comes together to represent a holistic tourism experience makes it easy to see how patients with dementia may benefit from tourism as an intervention,” said Dr. Wen.

Tourism leads to both physical and psychological benefits. In light of COVID-19’s impact on the travel industry, there is a greater scrutiny on the value of tourism beyond its lifestyle and economic effects.

“So, after COVID, it’s a good time to identify tourism’s place in public health — and not just for healthy tourists, but vulnerable groups,” said Dr. Wen.

Dr. Wen expressed hope for new collaborative research to examine how tourism can enhance people’s lives with different medical conditions. The need to bridge health science and tourism seems a worthwhile initiative.

At this time, tourism is an area that requires more evidence and research to determine if it can be a successful treatment for different types of illnesses like dementia or depression. Tourism is about more than just traveling for leisure; we must rethink its role in society.

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