Definitions of leisure

By Matt Burdett, 1 November 2017

On this page, we look at the meaning of leisure, tourism and sport, and how they overlap.

  • Mountain biking while on holiday in Cambodia is an enjoyable way to spend a day for some people… is it leisure, sport or tourism – or all of them?

Leisure, tourism and sport can overlap. You could be doing a sporting activity while on holiday enjoying your leisure time. How are these terms distinct from one another?

Leisure

“Any freely chosen activity or experience that takes place in non-work time.” (IBO, 2009: 32)

Tourism

“Travel away from home for at least one night for the purpose of leisure.” (IBO, 2009: 33)

“The movement of people to countries or places outside their usual environment for personal or business/professional purposes. These people are called visitors…and tourism has to do with their activities.” (UNWTO, 2012)

Sport

“A physical activity involving a set of rules or customs. The activity may be competitive.” (IBO, 2009: 33)

A term “defined in various ways and from different perspectives…often narrowly associated with competitive play involving concepts of time, space and formalised rules”. (Hudson, 2003)

Difficulties with defining specific activities

Aside from the overlap between these definitions, there is also difficulty with defining specific activities. Some people may argue an activity is a sport, others claim it is a leisure activity.

An example of this is the game of chess. Many people would not recognise chess as a physical activity. However, the International Olympic Committee has recognised the World Chess Federation (known as FIDE) as an International Federation, one of its criteria to accept a sport to be part of the Olympics chess as an Olympic sport, since 1999 (FIDE, 2009). The criteria for such a designation differ from organisation to organisation. 117 countries recognise chess as a sport, but major sporting nations such as the United Kingdom do not (London Chess Conference, 2017).

It might be better to think of various activities as inhabiting a shared space within these definitions. For example, consider these three definitions as in a Venn diagram such as the one below. Most activities that come under the ‘leisure’ definition can be placed within the diagram somewhere. While it’s important to know a clear definition of each of these terms, it’s more important to understand that these definitions can be debated.

  • Diagram showing the overlap of leisure, tourism and sport.


Sources

Hudson, S., 2003. Sport and adventure tourism. Routledge. Vancouver

IBO, 2009. Diploma Programme Geography Guide. International Baccalaureate, Cardiff.

IOC, 2017. Recognised Federations. Accessed at https://secure.registration.olympic.org/en/faq/category/detail/24 29th October 2017.

FIDE, 2009. No title. Accessed https://www.fide.com/fide.html 29th October 2017.

London Chess Conference, 2017. Ten Reasons why Chess is a Sport. Accessed at http://londonchessconference.com/a-question-of-sport/ 29th October 2017.

UNWTO, 2012. Understanding tourism: basic glossary. Accessed at http://statistics.unwto.org/sites/all/files/docpdf/glossaryen.pdf 29th October 2017.


Definitions of Leisure, Tourism and Sport: Learning activities

Questions

  1. What activities do you do that can be considered:
    1. Leisure [1]
    2. Sport [1]
    3. Tourism [1]
  2. Tourism is a major industry. Suggest reasons why it is frequently studied alongside leisure and sport. [3]

Other tasks

  1. Place the definitions below into the appropriate heading: Leisure, Tourism or Sport

    “The movement of people to countries or places outside their usual environment for personal or business/professional purposes. These people are called visitors…and tourism has to do with their activities.” (UNWTO, 2012)

“A physical activity involving a set of rules or customs. The activity may be competitive.” (IBO, 2009: 33)
A term “defined in various ways and from different perspectives…often narrowly associated with competitive play involving concepts of time, space and formalised rules”. (Hudson, 2003)

“Any freely chosen activity or experience that takes place in non-work time.” (IBO, 2009: 32)
“Travel away from home for at least one night for the purpose of leisure.” (IBO, 2009: 33)


2. Place the activities below into the Venn diagram. Look out for trick activities!

  1. Playing chess in a local tournament
  2. Playing volleyball at lunch with colleagues
  3. Cycling on a Sunday afternoon with friends
  4. Walking to school
  5. Scuba diving to video coral reefs for a climate change documentary
  6. Watching English Premier League football
  7. Playing English Premier League football
  8. Playing in local league netball


© Matthew Burdett, 2018. All rights reserved.

All secondary material on this site is clearly referenced and may be subject to copyright restrictions by the original authors. All original material on this page is subject to copyright.

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