January 30, 2017

Purdue professors share tips for national Plan for Vacation Day

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — With winter weather hitting much of the United States, Purdue University professors are reminding the traveling public that spring and summer vacations are just around the corner.  

The U.S. Travel Association and Project: Time Off, an initiative that promotes the importance of time away from work and its impact on well-being, have designated Jan. 30 as National Plan for Vacation Day to encourage more Americans to clock out, relax and reset.

More than 50 percent of Americans don’t plan for vacation, which has resulted in a stockpile of more than 660 billion unused vacation days nationwide, according to the Project: Time Off website.

Researchers in the Purdue Tourism and Hospitality Research Center, based in the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, have developed strategies to help travelers get the most of out of their vacations without negatively impacting the destinations in which they visit.

Get the most out of vacation by being mindful

Associate Professor Sandra Sydnor said the hyper-connected nature of society prevents people from fully disengaging from work life and stresses waiting for them back home.

Sydnor said individuals and families should consider “wellness tourism,” such as yoga retreats or backpacking trips, that capitalize on the mental health benefits of vacation and create conditions where people are more likely to be mindful of the present moment.

“Not only do Americans not use their vacation days, but when they do use them, they often still work,” she said. “They’ll still be available for text or email; they might not come into the office, but instead they’ll work from home. You’re always connected.”

Choose a destination that refreshes

Professor Xinran Lehto has researched the restorative qualities of places and has identified six factors that help visitors regain their mental focus: a sense of fascination, a sense of compatibility with a place, scope of activities, a sense of mental and physical “away-ness,” and place orientation.

 “The place should have enough variation of interest: visual interest or activities that have depth for you to be engaged with,” she said. “Lying on the beach for many, many days is actually not the best way to recharge yourself. After a while, you get bored and you have anxiety, then you think about work and things at home you need to do. That’s not healthy for you.”

Plan to deal with pushy salespeople

Associate Professor Annmarie Nicely has identified 35 known ways micro-traders such as craft vendors and street-side chefs harass visitors at tourism destinations, including overcharging, haggling, pushing and shoving. Such behaviors can occur during all phases of the small trade process: during solicitation, during the sale, after the sale and during the “sale-refusal” stage. Visitor harassment, however, is most common during the solicitation phase.

“An easy way to avoid those behaviors is talking to persons, especially at the hotel at the front desk, and asking, ‘Where should I go? Where should I not go?’” she said. “If you decide to go to markets where there’s a likelihood that you’re going to be harassed, the most basic response would be, ‘No thank you,’ with a nice, sincere, respectful smile.”

Plan to travel responsibly

Associate Professor Jonathon Day, author of the book “Sustainable Tourism and Responsible Travel,” focuses on how people can travel in ways that minimize the negative impacts of tourism while still enjoying their vacation.

“As you plan your next getaway, remember your vacation dollar has power,” he said. “Choose to visit small businesses when you travel. Visit farmers markets and talk with local artists. Your souvenirs will be more interesting – your experience more authentic – and you’ll be supporting the local community.

Consider visiting a rural destination

Professor Liping Cai, director of the Purdue Hospitality and Tourism Research Center, said rural destinations are more likely to offer the advantages identified by other researchers to be beneficial to visitors. Rural tourism also tends to have a greater positive impact on communities with fewer of the negative aspects associated with tourism, Cai said.

“The health benefits of visiting rural destinations are often assumed but not recognized and acted upon by visitors,” he said. “In rural areas, visitors are more likely to be themselves. Rural tourism is less disruptive when it comes to the totality of the visitor’s experience. Vacationing in rural destinations is more controllable and relaxed in making decisions that affect the wide spectrum of experience.” 

Writer: Joseph Paul, 765-494-9541, paul102@purdue.edu  

Sources: Sandra Sydnor, 765-494-3449, ssydnorb@purdue.edu

Xinran Lehto, 765-496-2085, Xinran@purdue.edu

Annmarie Nicely, 765-494-4740, ajnicely@purdue.edu

Jonathon Day, 765-496-2084, gjday@purdue.edu

Liping Cai, 765-494-8384, liping@purdue.edu

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