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Health and Wellness Benefits of Travel Experiences A Literature Review

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Tourism has been widely regarded as a mentally and physically healthy pursuit. Thus, recent studies in tourism have paid more attention to the benefits of travel experiences. However, most studies pertaining to the topic have been conducted in the fields of organizational behavior and health science. Therefore, this research attempts to provide a comprehensive review of the literature on the health and wellness benefits of travel. The results revealed that positive effects of travel experiences on perceived health and wellness have been demonstrated by multiple studies. These benefits have been found to gradually diminish after a vacation. It was also found that there is a lack of research demonstrating the positive effect of travel experiences on physical health. Based on these findings, directions for future research are addressed.
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Journal of Travel Research
52(6) 709 –719
© 2013 SAGE Publications
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DOI: 10.1177/0047287513496477
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Benefits of Tourism: A Special Series in Partnership with The U.S. Travel Association
Taking vacations, defined as taking pleasure trips outside an
individual’s usual environment, is seen as an integral feature
of human life for many people (Richards 1999). As observed
by Hobson and Dietrich (1995), our society has assumed that
“tourism is a mentally and physically healthy pursuit to fol-
low in our leisure time” (p. 23). It has been found that taking
vacations can contribute to subjective well-being because
people have more opportunities to detach from their work
environment, to experience new things, and to control what
they want to do during vacations (Fritz and Sonnentag 2006;
Sonnentag and Fritz 2007).
In the tourism literature, Neal, Sirgy, Uysal, and col-
leagues were among the first to provide a theoretical frame-
work for travel benefits (Neal, Sirgy, and Uysal 1999; Neal,
Uysal, and Sirgy 2007; Sirgy et al. 2011). Their scientific
inquiry was primarily based on bottom-up spillover theory,
which suggests that overall life satisfaction is influenced by
evaluations of various life domains, such as personal health,
work, leisure, and family, while the positive and negative
affects accompanied by life events are assumed to have
effects on how individuals evaluate various life domains
(Neal, Sirgy, and Uysal 1999). Hence, positive travel experi-
ences can contribute to an individual’s health, family rela-
tionships, and overall wellness.
Thus, the objective of this research is to provide a com-
prehensive review of the literature pertaining to how travel
experiences impact the emotional and physical health and
wellness of individuals. This review is not limited to the
tourism literature in that articles published in tourism jour-
nals only accounted for a small portion among all studies
pertaining to the topic of travel benefits. Before the review,
the methodology of creating a comprehensive list of articles
pertaining to the health and wellness benefits of travel will
be provided. In the review, the theoretical underpinnings of
travel benefits will first be discussed. The empirical findings
relevant to travel benefits will be the next focus. Subsequently,
a list of hypotheses concerning travel effects will be exam-
ined. Finally, based on the results of the literature review,
directions for future research will be discussed.
Study Methods
The methodology for article search is shown in Figure 1.
First, primary literature was obtained by searching 44 online
databases including EBSCO, Ovid, ProQuest, Elsevier, and
ISI. Databases were searched using a predetermined set of
keywords, which were modified to reflect findings and
ensure relevance to the research. The initial keywords were
first identified by a panel of experts. After initial words were
identified, a total of three graduate students generated
abstracts that resulted from the search of each word. These
abstracts were further analyzed to determine if additional
keywords should be included in future searches.
496477JTRXXX10.1177/0047287513496477Journal of Travel ResearchChen and Petrick
research-article2013
1Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA
2Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA
Corresponding Author:
James F. Petrick, Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences,
Texas A&M University, TAMU 2261, College Station, TX 77843, USA.
Email: jpetrick@tamu.edu
Health and Wellness Benefits of Travel
Experiences: A Literature Review
Chun-Chu Chen1 and James F. Petrick2
Abstract
Tourism has been widely regarded as a mentally and physically healthy pursuit. Thus, recent studies in tourism have paid
more attention to the benefits of travel experiences. However, most studies pertaining to the topic have been conducted
in the fields of organizational behavior and health science. Therefore, this research attempts to provide a comprehensive
review of the literature on the health and wellness benefits of travel. The results revealed that positive effects of travel
experiences on perceived health and wellness have been demonstrated by multiple studies. These benefits have been found
to gradually diminish after a vacation. It was also found that there is a lack of research demonstrating the positive effect of
travel experiences on physical health. Based on these findings, directions for future research are addressed.
Keywords
benefits of travel, health benefits, wellness benefits, travel experiences
710 Journal of Travel Research 52(6)
The resultant list had a total of 30 keywords, including 8
keywords pertaining to tourism (vacation, holiday, travel ser-
vices, business trip, tourist experience, annual vacation,
duration of vacation, and senior tourists) and 22 keywords
pertaining to the benefits of travel (wellness tourism, health,
travel benefits, vacation outcome, recovery, unwinding,
mood regulation, recuperation, insomnia, respite, burnout,
absenteeism, exhaustion, subjective well-being, consumer
well-being, tourist well-being, quality of life, life satisfac-
tion, physical health, mental health, happiness, and lifestyle).
Each database listed previously was searched using the com-
bination of keywords (using only one tourism keyword and
one benefit keyword each time).
A secondary literature search was subsequently carried
out to obtain nonacademic publications such as consumer
trade articles, travel association publications, and public and
nonprofit organization information not available or over-
looked in the primary literature search. The following web-
sites were searched: www.googlescholar.com, ww.google.
com, www.unwto.org, www.wto.org, www.ustravel.org,
www.ttra.com, and various travel, leisure and family-focused
magazines.
The primary and secondary literature searches initially
yielded 297 journal articles, papers, and nonacademic
resources. After review of all articles by three graduate stu-
dents, and a reliability of sources check by two professors
with expertise in this area, 98 resources were deemed rele-
vant to this research and inclusive of usable empirical, theo-
retical, and practical information. The majority of resources
found were fairly recent. Only 18 articles were published
before 2000, while more than half of the articles (54 articles)
were published after 2005. In terms of geographical repre-
sentation, the majority of articles reviewed focused on
American studies and came from U.S. published journals.
Several others pertained to Asian and European studies that
were found in international or foreign journals.
Theoretical Underpinnings of Travel
Benefits
Even though research on the topic of vacation benefits has
accumulated a body of literature, only a few studies have
explicitly specified their theoretical foundations. In tourism,
a number of scholars (Neal, Sirgy, and Uysal 1999; Neal,
Uysal, and Sirgy 2007; Sirgy et al. 2011) have examined the
benefits of travel based on the above-mentioned bottom-up
spillover theory. A series of studies have been conducted to
empirically test the bottom-up spillover model in tourism.
Neal, Sirgy, and Uysal (1999) were among the first to exam-
ine the effects of vacationing as a life event on individuals’
life satisfaction. Their research indicated that life satisfaction
was directly influenced by trip satisfaction, while their pro-
posed mediating role of leisure life satisfaction was not sig-
nificant. Neal, Uysal, and Sirgy (2007) further tested the
hierarchy of satisfaction using a random sample of 2,000
adults residing in Southwest Virginia (Neal, Uysal, and Sirgy
2007). In this subsequent study (Neal, Uysal, and Sirgy
2007), direct and indirect effects of trip satisfaction were
found. However, their studies (Neal, Sirgy, and Uysal 1999;
Neal, Uysal, and Sirgy 2007) only examined the effects of
vacationing on two life domains: leisure life and nonleisure
life.
Sirgy et al. (2011) thus developed a scale to measure the
positive and negative affects accompanied by taking a vaca-
tion couched within various life domains, including social
life, family life, leisure life, cultural life, health and safety,
Keywords
*22 keywords pertaining to benefits of travel:
(1) wellness tourism, (2) health, (3) travel benefits, (4) vacation outcome, (5) recovery, (6) unwinding, (7) mood regulation, (8) recuperation,
(9) insomnia, (10) respite, (11) burn out, (12) absenteeism, (13) exhaustion, (14) subjective well-being, (15) consumer well-being, (16)
tourists well-being, (17) quality of life, (18) life satisfaction, (19) physical health, (20) mental health, (21) happiness, and (22) life style.
* 8 keywords pertaining to tourism:
(1) vacation, (2) holiday, (3) travel services, (4) business trip, (5) tourist experience, (6) annual vacation, (7) duration of vacation, (8) senior
tourists
Primary Literature Search Secondary Literature Search Peer Review
*Initial identification of keywords
*Scientific data inquiry (EBSCO,
Ovid, ProQuest, Elsevier, ISI, etc.)
*Analysis of abstracts
*30 final keywords
*Non-academic inquiry
(googlescholar.com, google.com,
untwo.org, ustravel.org, ttra.com.
and travel magazines).
*Initial outcome: 297 papers
*Review of the initial pool of papers
*98 papers in the final pool
Figure 1. Methodology for article search.
Chen and Petrick 711
financial life, work life, love life, arts and culture, spiritual
life, intellectual life, self, culinary life, and travel life. They
also tested whether the positive and negative affects of vaca-
tion experiences on the 13 life domains influenced overall
life satisfaction through satisfaction with the domains. They
found that positive affects associated with taking a recent
vacation had direct and indirect effects on overall life
satisfaction.
As bottom-up spillover theory helps tourism scholars to
understand whether trip satisfaction contributes to life satis-
faction, Sirgy (2010) further proposed to apply goal theory to
examine how individuals can benefit from taking vacations.
Research on goal theory (Brunstein, Schultheiss, and
Grässman 1998) has found that achieving accessible and per-
sonally meaningful goals is associated with subjective well-
being. Based on this notion, Sirgy (2010) argued that
individuals can benefit from taking vacations by selecting
travel goals that have high levels of attainability and valence
and by engaging in tourism activities that would help indi-
viduals to experience goal attainment. However, the applica-
bility of goal theory in the context of tourism has not been
empirically tested.
In the field of organizational behavior, a number of
researchers have attempted to examine the effects of vaca-
tioning on potentially releasing stress related to work (Etzion
2003; Kühnel and Sonnentag 2011; Westman and Eden
1997). Along this research line, the conservation of resources
theory has been frequently specified as the theoretical foun-
dation. According to Hobfoll (1989), the conservation of
resources theory postulates that individuals strive to obtain
and retain their external resources (such as financial assets)
as well as internal sources (such as personal energies and
positive mood). Since stress can lead to the depletion of
internal resources, individuals should gain more internal
resources in order to recover from stress (Hobfoll 1989).
Based on the notion of internal and external resources,
Westman and her colleagues employed a series of studies to
investigate the impact of vacation on burnout (Westman and
Eden 1997; Westman and Etzion 2001, 2002; Westman,
Etzion, and Gattenio 2008). Their results indicated that tak-
ing vacations decreases respondents’ job stress and burnout.
In a similar vein, Sonnentag and Fritz (2007) demonstrated
that vacation recovery experiences (such as psychological
detachment from work, relaxation experience, challenging
experience, and perceived control during vacation) can con-
tribute to employees’ mental and physical health by provid-
ing internal and external resources (Fritz and Sonnentag
2006; Sonnentag and Fritz 2007).
Empirical Findings of Travel Benefits
As a result of an extensive review of the literature, a total of
29 articles involving testing travel benefits were identified.
As shown in Table 1, most studies were interested in whether
taking a vacation can contribute to individuals’ perceived
health and psychological well-being. With only a few excep-
tions (Milman 1998; Tarumi, Hagihara, and Morimoto 1998),
the health and wellness benefits of travel were demonstrated
across different samples (such as senior travelers, company
employees, university faculty and staff members, individuals
with disabilities, and patients and their carers) and different
geographical locations.
Nearly half of the studies in Table 1 (n = 14) adopted pre-
test-posttest designs. In these studies, researchers measured
individuals’ perceived health and psychological well-being
before and after a vacation, and vacation effects were tested
by comparing two measures of perceived health and well-
ness. In order to understand whether vacation effects dimin-
ish after a vacation, a number of studies employed at least
one measure after individuals were back from their vacations
(de Bloom et al. 2010; de Bloom et al. 2011; Etzion 2003;
Kühnel and Sonnentag 2011; Nawijn et al. 2010; Westman
and Eden 1997). The results suggest that vacation effects last
for about two to three weeks (de Bloom et al. 2010; de Bloom
et al. 2011; Etzion 2003; Westman and Eden 1997), while
under certain circumstances, vacation effects might persist
for only a few days (de Bloom 2011; Nawijn et al. 2010).
Moreover, previous studies have examined whether vaca-
tion satisfaction and vacation experiences are associated
with perceived psychological well-being after taking a vaca-
tion. As mentioned before, based on bottom-up spillover
theory, a number of studies have tested and provided evi-
dence that satisfaction with leisure travel services leads to an
increase in overall life satisfaction (Lounsbury and Hoopes
1986; Neal, Sirgy, and Uysal 1999; Neal, Uysal, and Sirgy
2007; Sirgy et al. 2011).
This association between vacation experience and per-
ceived wellness has been corroborated by other studies. For
example, Neal, Uysal, and Sirgy (2007) and Sirgy et al.
(2011) have demonstrated that positive trip reflections (such
as perceived freedom of control, and challenging experi-
ences) might contribute to overall life satisfaction. Likewise,
it has been shown that vacation recovery experiences (such
as psychological detachment from work, relaxation experi-
ence, challenging experience, and perceived control during
vacation) might positively influence perceived wellness
(Fritz and Sonnentag 2006; Sonnentag and Fritz 2007).
Regarding vacation outcomes, most studies have been
interested in perceptions, such as perceived health and psy-
chological well-being, while physiological measures have
been adopted by only a couple of studies (Tarumi Hagihara,
and Morimoto 1998; Toda et al. 2004). For example, Tarumi
Hagihara, and Morimoto (1998) attempted to examine the
association between work stress and frequency of vacation-
ing among 551 male, white-collar workers. Their results
indicated that frequency of vacationing had a negative effect
on the psychological measures of stress, while the relation-
ship between vacationing and the physiological measure of
stress was not significant. Toda et al. (2004) used saliva sam-
ples from 40 women to test whether people can release stress
712 Journal of Travel Research 52(6)
Table 1. A summary of studies on tourism benefits.
Author
Pretest–
Posttest
Design Location Respondent HypothesisaResultb
Lounsbury and
Hoopes (1986)
Yes USA 128 employees Vacation Job performance and life
satisfaction ()
Vacation satisfaction Life satisfaction ()
Vacation satisfaction Job performance ()
Yes
Yes
Westman and Eden
(1997)
Yes Israel 76 clerks Vacation Burnout ()
Fade-out 3 weeks
Duration of trip Vacation effect ()
Yes
No
Tarumi, Hagihara,
and Morimoto
(1998)
No Japan 551 employees Vacation Perceived health ()
Vacation Physiological measures of health ()
Yes
No
Milman (1998) Yes USA 124 senior travelers Vacation activities Psychological well-being ()
Vacation experience Psychological well-
being ()
No
No
Neal, Sirgy, and
Uysal (1999)
No USA 373 university employees Vacation satisfaction Life satisfaction () Yes
Gump and
Matthews (2000)
No USA 12388 men at high risk
for heart disease
Vacation Health risk () Yes
Westman and
Etzion (2001)
Yes Israel 87 employees Vacation Absenteeism and burnout () Yes
Westman and
Etzion (2002)
Yes Israel 57 business travelers Vacation Stress and burnout () Yes
Wei and Milman
(2002)
No USA 300 senior travelers Vacation activity Psychological well-being () Yes
Gilbert and Abdullah
(2002)
Yes UK 355 holiday takers & 249
non-holiday takers
Expectation about vacation Life
satisfaction ()
Yes
Strauss-Blasche,
Ekmekcioglu, and
Marktl (2002)
Yes Austria 53 employees Vacation Perceived health ()
Vacation Psychological well-being ()
Vacation Recuperation ()
Work load after vacation Vacation effect ()
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Cleaver and Muller
(2002)
No Australia 356 senior travelers Subjective age during vacation Trip
activities ()
Subjective age during vacation Subjective
well-being ()
Yes
Yes
Etzion (2003) Yes Israel 110 employees Vacation Burnout and job stress ()
Fade-out 3 weeks
Duration of trip Vacation effect ()
Yes
No
Toda et al. (2004) No Japan 50 women Vacation Physiological measures of health () Yes
Gilbert and Abdullah
(2004)
Yes UK 355 holiday takers and
249 non–holiday
takers
Vacation Perceived health ()
Vacation Subjective well-being ()
Yes
Neal, Uysal, and
Sirgy (2007)
No USA 815 adult consumers of
travel services
Vacation satisfaction and experience Life
satisfaction ()
Duration of trip Vacation effect ()
Yes
Yes
Strauss-Blasche
et al. (2005)
No Austria 239 employees Vacation Exhaustion ()
Vacation Recuperation ()
Yes
Yes
Fritz and Sonnentag
(2006)
Yes Germany 233 nonacademic
university employees
Vacation and vacation experience
Perceived health ()
Vacation and vacation experience Burnout ()
Vacation Job performance ()
Yes
Yes
No
McConkey and
McCullough
(2006)
No North
Ireland
152 family carers for
individuals with
learning disability
Vacation Subjective well-being () Yes
Pols and Kroon
(2007)
No Netherland 11 individuals with
mental health
problems
Vacation Subjective well-being () Yes
(continued)
Chen and Petrick 713
on a three-day trip. Their results indicated that even a short
trip could contribute to stress relief.
Hypotheses Testing
Based on previous findings pertaining to travel benefits, a
total of eight hypotheses were further examined, including
four hypotheses about the global effects of vacationing (it
improves quality of life, improves health, reduces stress, and
helps one stay active and live a healthy lifestyle) and four
hypotheses about the effects of vacationing on different
groups of people (general public, employees, seniors, and
individuals who are mostly excluded from taking a
vacation).
Hypothesis 1: Taking vacations improves feelings of one’s
quality of life and happiness.
As mentioned before, the positive effects of vacationing
on perceived quality of life and happiness have been shown
by a number of studies (Cleaver and Muller 2002; Dolnicar,
Yanamandram, and Cliff 2012; Gilbert and Abdullah 2004;
Lounsbuy and Hoopes 1986; Mactavish et al. 2007;
McConkey and McCullough 2006; Neal, Sirgy, and Uysal
1999; Neal, Uysal, and Sirgy 2007; Pols and Kroon 2007;
Sirgy et al. 2011; Strauss-Blasche, Ekmekcioglu, and Marktl
2000, 2002; Strauss-Blasche et al. 2004a, 2004b; Wei and
Milman 2002). However, it has also been shown that per-
ceived happiness might fluctuate before, during, and after a
vacation (de Bloom et al. 2009; Nawijn 2011).
As shown in Figure 2, people on vacation might go
through four stages, including anticipation, experience, ben-
eficial, and fade-out. In the anticipation stage, it is believed
that people might feel happier than usual before their vaca-
tion because they expect to have positive experiences (Gilbert
and Abdullah 2002; Nawijn 2010). In the experience stage,
perceived happiness might be further lifted by a number of
factors during vacation, including positive trip reflection
(Neal, Uysal, and Sirgy 2007; Sirgy et al. 2011), recovery
experiences (Fritz and Sonnentag 2006; Sonnentag and Fritz
Author
Pretest–
Posttest
Design Location Respondent HypothesisaResultb
Mactavish et al.
(2007)
No Canada 15 family carers for
individuals with
intellectual disability
Vacation Subjective well-being () Yes
de Bloom et al.
(2010)
Yes Netherland 96 respondents Vacation Perceived health and subjective
well-being ()
Vacation Stress ()
Vacation Sleep quality ()
Fade out 2 weeks
Yes
Yes
No
Nawijn et al. (2010) No Netherland 1530 Panelists Vacation Perceived health ()
Fade-out Vacation effect ()
Yes
Yes
McCabe, Joldersma,
and Chunxiao
(2010)
Yes UK 300 low income families Vacation Subjective well-being () Yes
de Bloom et al.
(2011)
Yes Netherland 176 employees Vacation Perceived health and subjective
well-being ()
Negative incidents Perceived health and
well-being ()
Fade-out 2 weeks
Yes
Yes
de Bloom et al.
(2011)
Yes Netherland 93 employees Vacation Perceived health and subjective
well-being ()
Fade-out 3 days
Yes
Kühnel and
Sonnentag (2011)
No Germany 131 German teachers Vacation Exhaustion ()
Fade-out 1 month
Yes
Sirgy et al. (2011) No South
Africa
264 adults Vacation satisfaction and experience Life
satisfaction ()
Yes
Dolnicar,
Yanamandram,
and Cliff (2012)
No Australia 1,000 panelists Vacation Subjective well-being () Yes
a. denotes positive effect; denotes negative effect.
b. Yes denotes hypothesis was demonstrated, while No denotes hypothesis was not demonstrated.
Table 1. (continued)
714 Journal of Travel Research 52(6)
2007), vacation satisfaction (Neal, Sirgy, and Uysal et al.
1999; Neal, Uysal, and Sirgy 2007; Sirgy et al. 2011), and
activity level during vacation (Cleaver and Muller 2002; Wei
and Milman 2002). However, it has also been demonstrated
that perceived happiness might be negatively influenced by
negative incidents during vacation (de Bloom et al. 2011)
including: time-zone differences (Strauss-Blasche et al.
2005), health problems (Strauss-Blasche et al. 2005), and the
temperature at the vacation site (Strauss-Blasche et al. 2005).
People also often feel happier after taking a vacation
(Cleaver and Muller 2002; Dolnicar, Yanamandram, and
Cliff 2012; Gilbert and Abdullah 2004; Lounsbury and
Hoopes 1986; Mactavish et al. 2007; McConkey and
McCullough 2006; Neal, Sirgy, and Uysal 1999; Neal, Uysal,
and Sirgy 2007; Pols and Kroon 2007; Sirgy et al. 2011;
Strauss-Blasche, Ekmekcioglu, and Marktl 2000, 2002;
Strauss-Blasche et al. 2004a, 2004b; Wei and Milman 2002).
However, in the fade-out stage, the positive effects of vaca-
tioning on perceived wellness might be gradually diminished
by one’s work load in the days and weeks after a vacation
(Strauss-Blasche, Ekmekcioglu, and Marktl 2002). It has
been found that vacation effects might last for only a few
days (de Bloom et al. 2011; Nawijn et al. 2010), two to three
weeks (de Bloom et al. 2010; de Bloom et al. 2011; Etzion
2003; Westman and Eden 1997), or no more than one month
(Kühnel and Sonnentag 2011).
Hypothesis 2: Taking vacations improves physical health.
It has been demonstrated that people often feel that they
are healthier after a vacation (Gilbert and Abdullah 2004;
Fritz and Sonnentag 2006; Gump and Matthews 2000;
Strauss-Blasche, Ekmekcioglu, and Marktl 2000, 2002;
Strauss-Blasche et al. 2004a, 2004b). Previous studies have
primarily focused on perceived health as a vacation outcome,
while physiological measures of health have been rarely
adopted. Among a few exceptions, Gump and Matthews
(2000) examined the association between frequency of vaca-
tioning and health risks among 12,388 men at high risk for
heart disease in the United States. They found that individu-
als who traveled more frequently had fewer nonfatal cardio-
vascular events and lower risk factors for coronary heart
disease. However, more evidence is needed in order to deter-
mine if vacations truly improve physical health.
2
Negative Factor:
*Work Load
(Strauss-Blasche et al. 2002)
Positive Factors
*Positive Trip Reflection (Neal et al. 2007; Sirgy et al. 2011)
*Recovery Experience (Fritz and Sonnentag 2006; Sonnentag and Fritz 2007)
*Vacation Satisfaction (Neal et al. 1999, 2007; Sirgy et al. 2011)
*Activity Level (Cleaver and Muller 2002; Wei and Milman 2002)
Negative Factors:
*Negative Incidents (de Bloom et al. 2011)
*Time-zone Difference to Home (Strauss-Blasche et al. 2005)
*Health Problem during Vacation (Strauss-Blasche et al. 2005)
*Temperature at vacation site (Strauss-Blasche et al. 2005)
After Vacation During Vacation Before Vacation
Anticipation Stage Experience Stage Fade-out Stage Beneficial Stage
The level of Life Satisfaction
Positive Factor:
*Expectation about Vacation
(Gilbert and Abdullah 2002;
Nawijn et al. 2010)
Outcome:
*Happpiness
(Gilbert amd Abdullah 2002;
Nawijn et al. 2010)
Outcomes:
*Positive Affect
(Nawijn 2011; Sirgy et al. 2011)
*Happiness
(Kemp, Burt, and Furneaux 2008;
Nawijn et al. 2010; Nawijn 2011)
Outcomes:
*Life Satisfaction1
*Health2
*Stress Relief3
*Job Performance4
Outcome:
*Fade-out Effect
(de Bloom et al. 2010, 2011a,
2011b; Etzion 2003; Nawijn et al.
2010; Westman and Eden 1997)
1(Cleaver and Muller 2002; Dolnicar et al. 2012; Gilbert and Abdullah 2004; Lounsbuy and Hoopes 1986; Mactavish et al. 2007; McConkey and
McCullough2006; Neal et al. 1999, 2007; Pols and Kroon 2007; Sirgy et al. 2011; Strauss-Blasche et al. 2002, 2004a, 2004b; Wei and Milman 2002)
2(Gilbert and Abdullah 2004; Frtiz and Sonnentag 2006; Gump and Matthews 2000; Strauss-Blasche et al. 2002, 2004a, 2004b; Tarumi et al.1998; Toda
et al. 2004)
3(Etzion 2003; Frtiz and Sonnentag 2006; Kuhnel and Sonnentag 2011; Strauss-Blasche et al.2000, 2002, 2005; Westman and Eden 19 97; Westman and
Etzion 2001, 2002)
4(Frtiz and Sonnentag 2006; Lounsbuy and Hoopes 1986)
Figure 2. Factors influencing vacation outcomes.
Chen and Petrick 715
Hypothesis 3: Taking vacations reduces stress.
This hypothesis has been supported by a number of stud-
ies (Etzion 2003; Fritz and Sonnentag 2006; Kühnel and
Sonnentag 2011; Strauss-Blasche, Ekmekcioglu, and Marktl
2000, 2002; Strauss-Blasche et al. 2005; Westman and Eden
1997; Westman and Etzion 2001, 2002). Specifically, it has
been demonstrated that taking a vacation can lead to
decreases in work stress (de Bloom et al. 2010; Etzion 2003;
Westman and Etzion 2002), burnout (Etzion 2003; Fritz and
Sonnentag 2006; Westman and Eden 1997; Westman and
Etzion 2001, 2002), exhaustion (Kühnel and Sonnentag
2011; Strauss-Blasche et al. 2005), and absenteeism
(Westman and Etzion 2001). However, the positive effects of
vacationing on stress relief might also gradually fade out
because of one’s work load after a vacation (Strauss-Blasche,
Ekmekcioglu, and Marktl 2000). As mentioned before, vaca-
tion effects might be totally diminished within a few days (de
Bloomet al. 2011; Nawijn et al. 2010) and they might last as
long as one month (Kühnel and Sonnentag 2011).
Hypothesis 4: Taking vacations helps one stay active and
live a healthy lifestyle.
To date there appears to be a lack of evidence to support
this hypothesis. Instead, it has been shown that active people
are more likely to go traveling and participate in more activi-
ties during vacation, resulting in higher life satisfaction
(Cleaver and Muller 2002; Wei and Milman 2002). In other
words, vacations might not lead to an active and healthy life-
style, but people who live in an active and healthy lifestyle
are more likely to travel more. Thus, research is needed in
order to better understand if taking vacations helps one to
stay active and live a healthy lifestyle.
Hypothesis 5: Some people suffer from vacation sickness.
Even though it has been found that people often feel hap-
pier, healthier, and more relaxed after a vacation, previous
studies have suggested that not everyone benefits from tak-
ing vacations (Aronsson and Gustafsson 2005; Sillanpää
1991; Sillanpää and Koivusilta 1989; Van Heck and
Vingerhoets 2007; Vingerhoets, Van Huijgevoort, and Van
Heck 2002). For example, based on a representative sample
of Swedish workers (n = 2,536), Aronsson and Gustafsson
(2005 found that only 15 percent felt recuperated after a
vacation. It has also been demonstrated that some people
regularly suffer from headaches during vacation (Sillanpää
1991; Sillanpää and Koivusilta 1989). According to
Vingerhoets, Van Huijgevoort, and Van Heck (2002), these
people suffer from “leisure sickness,” and feel particularly ill
during weekends and vacations.
Hypothesis 6: Employees benefit from taking vacations.
Scholars in organizational behavior and applied psychol-
ogy have paid extensive attention to employees’ work–life
balance. They have demonstrated that taking a vacation can
lead to a decrease in work stress (de Bloom et al. 2010;
Etzion 2003; Westman and Etzion 2002), burnout (Etzion
2003; Fritz and Sonnentag 2006; Westman and Eden 1997;
Westman and Etzion 2001, 2002), exhaustion (Kühnel and
Sonnentag 2011; Strauss-Blasche et al. 2005), and absentee-
ism (Westman and Etzion 2001) and lead to increases in
recuperation (Strauss-Blasche, Ekmekcioglu, and Marktl
2002; Strauss-Blasche et al. 2005) and job performance
(Fritz and Sonnentag 2006; Lounsbury and Hoopes 1986). In
other words, the hypothesis that employees benefit from tak-
ing vacations is generally supported by previous studies.
However, previous studies have also suggested that taking
vacations only has short-term positive effects on employees
(Etzion 2003; de Bloom et al. 2010; de Bloom et al. 2011;
Westman and Eden 1997). Moreover, there is a lack evidence
to demonstrate that vacation outcomes produce favorable
financial results for business owners.
Hypothesis 7: Seniors benefit from taking vacations.
Senior travelers have also been the focus of several stud-
ies (Cleaver and Muller 2002; Milman 1998; Wei and
Milman 2002). For example, Milman (1998) was among the
first to examine the effect of vacationing on senior travelers’
psychological well-being. His results showed that vacation
experience and the levels of activity during vacation had no
effect on perceived wellness after vacation. He attributed the
nonsignificant effects to the small sample size (n = 124) and
the homogenous nature of the sample (Milman 1998).
Wei and Milman’s (2002) subsequent work (using a sam-
ple of 300) provided evidence that senior travelers who more
actively participate in a variety of activities during a vacation
might benefit from vacationing. Likewise, Cleaver and
Muller (2002) examined the concept of subjective age among
senior travelers. They found that senior travelers who per-
ceived themselves as younger more actively participated in a
variety of activities during vacation and likely benefited
more from taking a vacation. Therefore, it has been some-
what supported that seniors benefit from taking vacations by
participating in more activities during their vacations.
Hypothesis 8: Individuals who are mostly excluded from
vacationing benefit from taking vacations.
It has been demonstrated that vacations have positive
effects on those who are mostly excluded from vacationing,
such as low-income families (McCabe, Joldersma, and Li
2010), patients (Gump and Matthews 2000; Pols and Kroon
2007), and individuals with a disability and their family care-
takers (Mactavish et al. 2007; McConkey and McCullough
2006; Strauss-Blasche et al. 2004a). Specifically, McCabe,
716 Journal of Travel Research 52(6)
Joldersma, and Li (2010) conducted a study in the United
Kingdom to examine whether low-income families benefit
from taking a rare vacation. Their results indicated that fam-
ily members might benefit from vacationing in terms of gain-
ing new experiences, being able to cope with difficult family
situations, and having a chance to spend quality time together
as a family. McCabe, Joldersma, and Li (2010) concluded
that policy makers should consider providing financial sup-
port for low-income families to take regular vacations.
Individuals with health problems and/or disabilities have
also drawn attention from scholars in health science. For
example, Gump and Matthews (2000) examined the associa-
tion between frequency of vacationing and health risks
among 12,388 men at high risk for heart disease in the United
States. They found that individuals who traveled more fre-
quently had fewer nonfatal cardiovascular events and lower
risk factors for coronary heart disease. Furthermore, based
on their interviews with 11 individuals with mental health
problems in the Netherlands, Pols and Kroon (2007) found
that mental health patients might benefit from taking a vaca-
tion in terms of new perceptions of self-identity, skill devel-
opment, and social relations. Likewise, it has been found that
both individuals with disabilities (McConkey and
McCullough 2006) and low-income families could benefit
from taking a vacation.
Recommendations for Future Research
In summary, previous studies on the health and wellness ben-
efits of travel experiences have shown that people often feel
happier (Dolnicar, Yanamandram, and Cliff 2012; Neal,
Uysal, and Sirgy 2007; Sirgy et al. 2011), healthier (Gilbert
and Abdullah 2004; Fritz and Sonnentag 2006; Strauss-
Blasche, Ekmekcioglu, and Marktl 2000), and more relaxed
(Etzion 2003; Kühnel and Sonnentag 2011; Westman and
Etzion 2002) after a pleasure trip. However, the positive
effects of travel experiences have been found to gradually
diminish in the days and weeks after a vacation (de Bloom et
al. 2009; Nawijn et al. 2010; Strauss-Blasche, Ekmekcioglu,
and Marktl 2002). Therefore, to date there appears to be lack
of evidence to demonstrate the long-term effect of vacation-
ing. There is also lack of research demonstrating the positive
effect of travel experiences on physical health. It has further
been found that not everyone benefits from taking vacations
in that some people regularly suffer from sickness during
weekends and vacations (Aronsson and Gustafsson 2005;
Sillanpää 1991; Van Heck and Vingerhoets 2007). However,
the psychological and social factors contributing to “vaca-
tion sickness” are still unknown.
Beyond the global effects of vacationing, previous studies
have also examined the effects of vacationing on different
groups of people, including (1) employees, (2) seniors, and
(3) individuals who are mostly excluded from taking a vaca-
tion. Research on employees has found that taking a vacation
can lead to a decrease in work stress, burnout, exhaustion,
and absenteeism (de Bloom et al. 2010; Etzion 2003; Kühnel
and Sonnentag 2011; Westman and Etzion 2001). However,
these effects have been also found to be short-term (Etzion
2003; de Bloom et al. 2010; Westman and Eden 1997).
Moreover, there is lack of evidence to demonstrate that vaca-
tion outcomes improve employees’ health and further pro-
duce favorable financial results for business owners.
Regarding senior travelers, a few studies have revealed
that senior travelers who perceived themselves as younger
tended to more actively participate in a variety of activities
during vacation and likely benefited more from taking a
vacation (Cleaver and Muller 2002; Wei and Milman 2002).
Conversely, no evidence has been found that taking vaca-
tions helps improve seniors’ health. However, a number of
studies have demonstrated that vacations have positive
effects on low-income families, patients, and individuals
with a disability and their family caregivers (Gump and
Matthews 2000; Mactavish et al. 2007; McCabe, Joldersma,
and Li 2010).
Based on these findings, recommendations for future
research on the health and wellness benefits of travel experi-
ences are suggested. These recommendations include the
best areas for immediate research as well as areas for near-
future research.
Recommendations for Immediate Research
A total of four areas for immediate research are identified,
including (1) travel benefits and persuasion, (2) the health
benefits of travel, (3) vacation sickness, and (4) travel bene-
fits for senior travelers.
Regarding the first area, previous findings have demon-
strated that taking vacations help people to feel happier,
healthier, and more relaxed. However, it remains unclear
whether people are aware of the benefits of travel and how
their awareness influences their travel behavior. Tourism
scholars and practitioners have paid extant attention to travel
motivations and purchase intentions related to tourist desti-
nations or services (such as cruises, hotels, or resorts), but
they have not extensively examined their perceptions of ben-
efits. Therefore, it is of interest to examine why some people
purchase more leisure travel services in general (i.e., spend
more money during vacations, spend more time in tourist
destinations, or go on a vacation more frequently) than
others.
In particular, future research is recommended to investi-
gate whether and how the amount of leisure travel services
purchased by an individual is influenced by his or her per-
ceived benefits of travel. This investigation should help to
answer the question – whether the travel industry can encour-
age individuals to purchase more travel services by convinc-
ing them that taking vacations is beneficial.
Further, more research is needed to examine whether tak-
ing vacations helps people to “become healthier” not just
“feel healthier.” Therefore, the health benefits of travel have
Chen and Petrick 717
been specified as a second area for immediate research. Even
though the positive effects of vacationing on perceived health
have been demonstrated by a number of studies (Gilbert and
Abdullah 2004; Fritz and Sonnentag 2006; Strauss-Blasche,
Ekmekcioglu, and Marktl 2000, 2002; Strauss-Blasche et al.
2004a, 2004b), there is a lack of evidence to show that peo-
ple actually become healthier after a vacation. Among a few
exceptions, Tarumi, Hagihara, and Morimoto (1998) and
Toda et al. (2004) have adopted physiological measures to
assess the benefits of travel, while the focus in their research
was “stress” rather than “health.” Therefore, more evidence
is needed to demonstrate the association between leisure
travel and health. Future research is recommended to exam-
ine the effect of vacationing on health, particularly with the
use of physiological measures of health, such as blood pres-
sure, serum cholesterol, body mass index, and salivary corti-
sol (Ferrie et al. 2002; Pruessner, Hellhammer, and
Kirschbaum 1999)
Moreover, previous studies have found that some people
regularly feel ill during weekends and vacations. Van Heck
and Vingerhoets (2007) postulated that people suffering from
vacation sickness are unable to detach themselves from their
work and feel relaxed during vacations. However, it is rec-
ommended to further examine the psychological and social
factors contributing to vacation sickness.
Finally, previous studies have shown that seniors might
benefit from taking vacations by participating in more activi-
ties during vacation (Cleaver and Muller 2002; Milman
1998; Wei and Milman 2002). However, more studies are
needed to examine how senior travelers can benefit from tak-
ing vacations, such as the effects of vacationing on improv-
ing subjective wellness and family relationships as well as on
lowering mortality rates and risk factors associated with
diseases.
Recommendations for Near-Future Research
A couple of areas for near-future research are also identified
based on the comprehensive review of the literature. As com-
pared to the areas for immediate research, the areas for near-
future research are more time-consuming and expensive to
conduct. These areas of study include the long-term health
benefits of travel as well as the long-term benefits of travel
for employees and their organizations.
Regarding the long-term health benefits of travel, Gump
and Matthews (2000) conducted a longitudinal study to
examine the association between frequency of vacationing
and health risks among 12,388 men at high risk for heart dis-
ease. They found that individuals who traveled more fre-
quently had fewer nonfatal cardiovascular events and lower
risk factors for coronary heart disease. They argued that one
potential role of leisure travel in improving health is that tak-
ing vacations can help people to relax. However, Gump and
Matthews (2000) also found people with higher social eco-
nomic status are generally healthier, while they also have
more money to travel. Thus, more research is needed to
examine whether leisure travel can contribute to lowering
mortality rates or risk factors for different diseases.
Further, it has been shown that taking vacations can help
employees to reduce work stress and burnout (de Bloom et
al. 2010; Etzion 2003; Fritz and Sonnentag 2006; Westman
and Etzion 2002), resulting in decreases in absenteeism
(Westman and Etzion 2001) and increases in job perfor-
mance (Fritz and Sonnentag 2006; Lounsbury and Hoopes
1986). However, it has also been found that positive vacation
outcomes often last for less than one month (Etzion 2003; de
Bloom et al. 2010, 20011; Westman and Eden 1997).
Therefore, future research is recommended to further exam-
ine whether and how employees can benefit from taking
vacations. For example, it is of interest to study whether
employees who travel more frequently have a more satisfac-
tory life, are healthier, or have higher job performances than
their coworkers who travel less frequently. This investigation
should help business owners to decide the potential benefits
that offering more vacation time could have on their
employees.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect
to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
Funding
The author(s) received no financial support for the research, author-
ship, and/or publication of this article: This research was supported
by the US Travel Association.
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Author Biographies
Chun-Chu Chen is an Instructor in the Department of Recreation,
Park & Tourism Management at the Pennsylvania State University.
His research interests include travel benefits and tourism
marketing.
James F. Petrick is a full professor, research fellow, and the chair
of graduate studies in the Department of Recreation, Park &
Tourism Sciences at Texas A&M University. His research interest
focuses on exploring the applicability of marketing and psychology
principles in the context of leisure/tourism services.
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