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Submit a Manuscript to the Journal
Tourism Recreation Research

For a Special Issue on
Wellness Tourism, Social sustainability and the Wellbeing of Destination Communities

Abstract deadline
15 March 2022

Manuscript deadline
01 December 2022

Cover image - Tourism Recreation Research

Special Issue Editor(s)

Jaeyeon Choe, Swansea University
[email protected]

Michael Di Giovine, West Chester University
[email protected]

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Wellness Tourism, Social sustainability and the Wellbeing of Destination Communities

Following increasing interest in healthy lifestyles and alternative stress coping mechanisms, wellness tourism and well-being aspects of tourism have flourished in tourism research over the past two decades (Dillette, Douglas & Andrzejewski, 2021; Smith & Kelly, 2006), and gained particular traction during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the World Health Organisation (2020), the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a global mental health crisis. It has meant that a more sustained interest in wellness is occurring and driving new persistent attitudes and behaviours. It is a shift that appears to go far beyond the more immediate effects of the pandemic, with potentially long-term and far-reaching impacts on people’s lives. As well as impacting the products, services and brands people buy/consume, it has led to an increase in wellness tourism. Wellness tourism can be defined as “travel associated with the pursuit of maintaining or enhancing one’s personal wellbeing,” according to the Global Wellness Institute. Wellness tourism, given its holistic and preventive nature, can include spiritual tourism, spa tourism, yoga tourism, and mindfulness tourism (Bowers & Cheer, 2017). Scholars such as Grimwood et al. (2018) have expanded the understanding of wellness tourism, to argue that wellness tourism must ensure both the environmental, economic and social well-being of individuals, communities and non-human actors, such as the indigenous flora and fauna. Thus, sustainable wellness tourism should be developed in the way that empowers local people and communities, help to reduce economic inequality and provides new livelihoods (Choe & Di Giovine, 2021; Hutchison, 2021).

Prior to the pandemic, wellness tourism had heavily focused on middle class ‘Western’ tourists, who sought wellness offerings in ‘exotic’ destinations, many of which were low income countries. Wellness tourism facilities, especially with those at international hotels, were often disconnected from the local culture, generating a ‘tourism bubble’ and economic leakage. As the COVID-19 pandemic is a turning point, wellness tourism programmes should be re-developed in a socially sustainable manner to benefit broader destination communities. Rather than focusing on wealthy (Western) tourists, as some re-emergence plans are doing, governments and tourism authorities should consider a wide range of travellers, including budget travellers, backpackers and domestic tourists as meaningful segments, and offer products and services accordingly. Wellness tourism programmes should be developed in a way that directly benefits local communities by reducing poverty and creating new livelihoods. Ideally, as demand for rural spas and spa hotels emerges, developers, businesses and authorities should address the needs of rural villages where poverty and unemployment rates are high (Choe & Di Giovine, 2021). To achieve true sustainable tourism development and community development, however, the social pillar of sustainability, which has been a marginal aspect of sustainability, should be equally emphasised. Wellness tourism development should empower and valorise local communities, providing voice to their perspectives and preserving their ways of life. This in turn will help enhance local people’s quality of life and well-being as well as their confidence and awareness of the valuable local heritage and resources sought by wellness tourists.

While there has been voluminous research on the impacts of tourism on destinations and local communities, this special issue focuses on how wellness tourism impacts the social sustainability (Eizenberg & Jabareen, 2017; Vallance et al., 2011) of local communities and destinations. This special issue aims to collect and generate knowledge and awareness on wellness tourism, destination case studies and empirical research on local communities’ well-being, rather than tourist perspectives. The special issue welcomes papers that expand our understanding of social sustainability as a theoretical framework, and how (within the framework of social sustainability) wellness tourism can drive a more holistic, coherent and rich understanding of sustainable tourism development and intersections with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), such as #1 (“No Poverty”), #3 (“Good Health and Well-being”) and #11 (“Sustainable Cities and Communities”), among others. We also welcome papers that concern small scale, and community-based forms of wellness tourism that are revitalising/invigorating local cultural heritage, which bring improved livelihood opportunities and renewed confidence/hopes to rural locations.

Importantly, we also welcome papers that extend existing definitions and Western understanding of wellness tourism or papers that include broader geographical and cultural contexts. Papers co-created with local scholarship in developing (Asian) countries, and papers that draw from non-Western, local knowledge are especially encouraged. This is because research is often disconnected from the local knowledge related to traditional wellness practices, with subsequent misunderstanding of wellness tourism impacts on local culture and economies, and communities.

Thus, to achieve a holistic understanding of the topic area, we are soliciting contributions from both international and local scholars in critical tourism studies, anthropology, geography, development studies, health studies, education, hospitality management, sociology, and more. Possible areas of interest include (but not limited to) the following topics:

  • Social sustainability of wellness tourism in the ‘Global South’
  • Wellness tourism and its contributions to UN SDGs (e.g., No Poverty)
  • Wellness tourism and community well-being enhancement
  • Wellness tourism in rural destinations and rural development
  • COVID-19 and emerging shifts in wellness tourist demand
  • Domestic wellness tourism during the COVID-19 period and the future
  • Diverse concepts, heritage and practices of wellness
  • Wellness tourism in non-Western contexts
  • Wellness tourism, local scholarship, and knowledge co-creation
  • Wellness tourism and transformational experiences

Submission Instructions

Expressions of interest are welcome in the form of an extended abstract (1000-1200 words excluding references), by 15 March 2022 to be sent to co-editors, Jaeyeon Choe ([email protected]) and Michael Di Giovine ([email protected]). Abstracts should include the title, authorship, author affiliation(s) and contact information and keywords (maximum six).

The authors who submit abstracts will be informed on the outcome of the abstract review no later than 15 April 2022. For those who are invited to prepare full manuscripts, the deadline for the submission of full papers will be 1 December 2022. All full paper submissions will be subject to the normal peer review processes of the Tourism Recreation Research.

Contributors should follow the journal’s “Instructions for Authors”. An invitation from the guest editors to submit a full paper does not guarantee publication.

-Estimated timeline from call for papers to publication:

  • Expressions of interest/abstract due: 15 March 2022
  • Accepted/rejected abstracts notified 15 April 2022
  • Invited full papers due on or before 1 December 2022
  • Anticipated special issue publication 1 December 2023

Instructions for AuthorsSubmit an Article

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