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Authored by: Melanie Kay Smith , László Puczkó

The Routledge Handbook of Health Tourism

Print publication date:  November  2016
Online publication date:  November  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138909830
eBook ISBN: 9781315693774
Adobe ISBN: 9781317437505


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The authors in this handbook have reflected on a number of the most significant themes relating to health tourism. Not all of the chapters focus on ‘health tourism’ per se, but instead on the complex inter-relationships between health, tourism and wellbeing. It can be (and has been) argued that all forms of tourism can contribute to wellbeing or health, but the question is, how long-lasting can the health or wellbeing effects of tourism be? This question is still open for debate, but one of the foundations of a healthier form of tourism is that it benefits the local people and the place as much as it benefits the tourists visiting that destination. This point is made especially prominently by Robyn Bushell in Chapter 8, and again by Colin Michael Hall in Chapter 16 (but the latter more specifically in the context of medical tourism). Health tourism clearly needs to follow the now well-established principles of sustainable development; however, many authors also argue that there is an inextricable link between wellbeing, health and sustainable development. For example, Edward H. Huijbens (Chapter 28) suggests that, along with the restoration of the self, visiting therapeutic landscapes can help to foster ecological sensibilities which may lead to higher levels of sustainable behaviour. Indeed, the emphasis on nature in this book is quite considerable. It is perhaps not surprising given that many of the authors have recently been exploring the relationship between tourism, wellbeing and ecosystem services in the context of an EU-funded COST project. However, others besides those authors seem to subscribe to Richard Louv’s (2005) notion that nature deficit disorder could be a real threat to human beings’ health and wellbeing. Harald A. Friedl in Chapter 27, for example, posits natural landscapes as an antedote to modern lifestyles within which attention is often wholly monopolised by digital devices. Both he and Edward H. Huijbens advocate forms of tourism that can attune human beings to different rhythms, such as those espoused by slow tourism or spiritual tourism. The rediscovery of one’s autonomy and sense of self away from the ordered, measured, hectic and stressful nature of modern life can be one of the rewards of spending more time in nature.

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