Dick Ettema and myself have written a conceptual paper on leisure travel and activities that will shortly be published in Journal of Transport Geography. In the paper we contend that the conceptual and methodological approaches currently used to examine leisure travel are problematic in a number of ways — one of these being that the relational nature of leisure trips is not adequately taken into consideration. Yes, there is increasing attention for social relations and social networks in travel behaviour analysis but this, we argue, does not go far enough. What is more, the linking of information on a person’s social networks to indicators of his/her travel behaviour in econometric models is conceptually unsatisfactory: it fails to consider how (a) social networks are just one of the space and time specific sets of relations leisure trips are situated in, and (b) how social relations are both medium and outcome of leisure activities and associated trips. We argue that there are complex recursive relationships between leisure activities and trips on the one hand and social relations and ‘place’ on the other. We use the concept of place to capture the more comprehensive sets of relationalities (over and beyond social networks) — think, for instance, of affordances, affects, norms, identities and power — in which leisure activities need to be positioned. We also outline how various theoretical frameworks — such as theories of social practices (a.k.a. practice theory) from sociology and geography and self-determination theory from psychology — can help us to advance the study of leisure activities and trips within travel behaviour and mobility analysis.
The paper is available here.