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#TourismPostCOVID19 | Responsible Tourism


Staycation: A way of looking at local tourism?

Carla Izcara & Ernest Cañada | Alba Sud

The term “local”, while vague and open to various interpretations, focuses largely on how we see the future of tourism. One word that has gained appeal is “staycation. But what is it and what does it mean?

Photography by: denAsuncione: Creative commons license.

The COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on reduced mobility and an imminent economic recession have caused growing interest in the future of tourism, one of the activities expected to be most affected. The dramatic drop in international tourism has led to predictions centered on short distance travel, which could be carried out for the remainder of the year, and much of 2021(Rajmil, 2020). The term "local", while vague and open to various interpretations focuses largely on how we see the future of tourism. Hence, multiple ways of organizing this possible type of tourism, which prioritizes a high demand in terms of short distances and has entered the debate with renewed interest. Thus, inland, social tourism, second-residence tourism, "slow tourism" and even certain forms of community tourism all appear to be possibilities that could take on greater roles in the short term in the renewal of the tourism. Despite their diversity, they have a common priority for national, local tourist, and to a great extent the working and middle class. At the same time, they connect with different expressions of popular recreation or leisure, not necessarily included in traditional tourism.

One word that has gained appeal is "staycation", a play on words between "staying at home" and "taking vacation", or "taking vacation while staying at home". Recently, in the wake of the debate on the decrease in tourism, this word has begun to appear in different proposals. It is seen as one of the ways to fulfill a perspective that emphasizes the reduction of tourist activity and that, furthermore, gives a greater value to the quality of the experience over its mass consumption (Andriotis, 2018; Fletcher et al., 2020). But what can we understand about "staycation" and what implications could it have?

Origins of the term

The term "staycation", despite popular belief, is not as new as you might think. According to the Merriam Webster online dictionary, it appeared for the first time in the United States in a 1944 Cincinnati newspaper, where readers were encouraged to go on "stay-cation" instead of "va-cation". The word is part of a list of tips posted in a beer ad that celebrated the country's victory in World War II. The reason for the "staycation" was to save gasoline reserved for the military. The same dictionary identifies the term being used again quite some time later, in 2005 specifically, when an Alabama newspaper defined it as "vacation where you stay at home and go nowhere."

But it was not until the beginning of the international economic crisis in 2008 that the term "staycation" became popular, and shortly after in Spanish as "quedaciones” (Pantaleoni, 2020). Thus, the shift to staying home while on vacation comes during a time of economic recession when the American middle class sees its income and savings falter. However, most people do not know the term "staycation" and therefore do not identify as "staycationners" (Yesawich, 2010). It is during this period of crisis that this proposal is disseminated through the media, especially the United States, and different authors begin to study it. However, its dissemination has led to different views and/or interpretations, which has caused a certain degree of confusion and inaccuracy in exactly what it means.

One concept, two visions

After reviewing the academic literature available on the concept of "staycation", and the use made in various modes of communications, two major interpretations can be identified. Firstly, some describe it as a vacation period where you stay home instead of going on a trip. In this definition, leisure activities and day trips to nearby destinations should be included, but always spending the night in the usual residence (Breslow, 2019; Fox, 2009; Moltz, 2009; De Bloom et al., 2016; Heimtun, 2017). Other authors, however, consider "staycation" as another practice of domestic or local tourism and, therefore, it would include overnight stays in tourist accommodation in nearby towns or in second homes (Bronner & Hoog, 2013; James et al. , 2017; Yesawich, 2010).

The strict definition of the term "staycation" should be the one that emphasizes the fact that the overnight stays are carried out at home, considering that this is its most characteristic feature. But this interpretation has been questioned and there has been doubt as to whether or not, in this case, it is tourism. This is not clear if the World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) theoretical definition is taken into account because in their opinion tourism always implies a displacement and overnight stay outside the habitual residence. However, this meaning clashes with the relativeness of distance as one of tourism’s essential defining factors that has been taking place in recent times. Therefore, it is thought that immersing oneself in an unfamiliar culture or a different environment can provide people with the same feeling of remoteness, although, in fact, they are still physically in their town and with this the perception of what is considered tourism has been broadened. (De Bloom et al., 2016). From this perspective, tourist activities coexist in everyday life, since it is possible to feel like a tourist or act as such in your own town. Meanwhile, new technologies offer virtual tourist experiences where mobility is no longer necessary to enjoy the attractions of other places.

These new perceptions of what tourism means, shorten the distance between the concepts of leisure, recreation and tourism, because the traditional difference focused on the space where the activity played out, and that could now include spending the night outside the habitual residence or the return to one's own home (Heimtun, 2017). The tourism industry and its lobbies have traditionally despised local leisure and recreation practices, which has been reflected in terms of public policies. The current situation could open up new perspectives for these activities.

Rising Practices

Whether it is in a narrower or broader sense, the idea of ​​"staycation" has been gaining popularity in recent years. This positive assessment has had to face a mass consumerism culture built since the beginning of capitalisms’ golden years of, at the end of World War II, and in which tourism has played a central role. Thus, among the core values ​​of this capitalism, modernity and progress have appeared linked to immediacy, speed and movement. However, statism has been perceived negatively. Some authors within the United States have even considered it "anti-American" and antagonistic to consumer culture (James et al., 2017). Similarly, it would lack the social prestige and the extent of what tourism consumption could provide, both under Fordist and post-Fordist forms (Ioannides & Debbage, 1997). The very idea of ​​"staying at home" as a way of taking a vacation has also come up against a certain negative perception because there are those who have thought that from their own home they cannot enjoy the feelings that being on vacation conveys outside of it. The play on words between “stay-cation” and “fake-cation”, or “ falsa-ciones” in Spanish were born from this idea (Heimtun, 2017).

Despite resistance, the possibility of taking vacations by staying at home, or even spending the night in nearby places, has made its way in recent years. The potential to rediscover and recognize nearby places; its traditions and cultures, the opportunity to promote and stimulate local tourist and commercial initiatives, or by reducing the environmental impact has been seen in a positive light. In particular, its contribution to the fight against climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from air transports and cruises. In fact, there are those who have identified a "staycation" as a more sustainable tourism, a way of connecting with the local culture, and having respect for the surroundings and the environment (Moltz, 2009).

This trend is supported by the fact that the concern for practicing sustainable tourism has especially grown among the new generations or millennials. This group is said to go on the most "staycations", but not only because of sustainability, but also because they also have shorter vacation periods and smaller budgets. Other groups that have been identified as practicing this type of vacation are single people and families with children (James et al., 2017; Yesawich, 2010). In times of growing job insecurity, it is also not surprising that popular leisure activities are valued more in new ways.

Proposal contradictions and limits

The shift in tourist consumption methods, which has given "staycation" an increasingly relevant role, is not free of contradictions. This would move away from certain emancipatory ideals and make it possible to drift from traditional capitalist consumerism, as well as the more negative dynamics of the current leading tourism.

For example, the idea of boosting local production has sometimes been challenged by acclaimed exclusionary patriotic speeches, where the local population is held responsible for making the economy rebound by consuming locally (Moltz, 2009).

By the same token, what was once considered a way of reducing vacation expenses is now being swallowed up by consumerism and isn’t necessarily a cheaper option (Sharma, 2009; Heimtum, 2017). For example, in the United States as of 2008 large shopping centers and various shops selling household goods, swimming pools, and technology took advantage of this in order to promote different products (Moltz, 2009). Department stores such as Sears and Macy's encouraged the promotion of such items as barbecues, swimming pools and different garden commodities (Fox, 2009). Similarly, restaurants also began offering special promotions and turned local cuisine into a new market niche. Therefore, "staycation" can also accentuate the role of the home as a privileged space for consumerism (Sharma, 2009). In turn, this consumer ideology reproduces certain undercurrents of prestige and distinctions that developed in conventional tourism.

As "staycation" becomes popular, we can find certain stereotypes associated with this type of practice in American nuclear families of white middle-class found in residential areas, and that have houses large enough to enjoy leisureliness and shared living spaces (Sharma, 2009). There is also clearly a class bias in this model. The lack of representation of other groups taking "staycations" shows how these expressions of leisure, recreation or tourism vary according to class, gender and race. Not everyone enjoys being at home or is excited by the same things. Only a few people have enough resources to enjoy a holiday from home in the conditions in which it has become widespread and, thus, consider "staycation" as an alternative to conventional tourism. Voluntarily slowing down tourism practices and maintaining a certain image and social status in a context of consumer capitalist societies could be a bit more complicated than it might seem at first glance.

Another aspect to be addressed is the gender dynamics established during the "staycation" period. Women have traditionally been assigned the tasks of caring for and maintaining the home. So staying home for vacation could mean no relief from this workload. In the "staycation" movement, home decoration tasks have been associated with women and leisure activities, such as holding a barbecue with friends in the garden, with men (Sharma, 2009). Likewise, social obligations, such as taking care of parents and/or children, can make vacations at home for women difficult to find moments of rest and enjoyment (Heimtun, 2017)

Taking the current health crisis due to COVID-19 into account, it is very likely that more people will join this trend, whether for economic reasons, restrictions on future mobility, security reasons, or even as way of promoting practices with low socio-environmental impact. Despite its contradictions, it allows space to revaluate certain forms of leisure, recreation and tourism based on proximity that use mores environmentally sustainable practice and generate greater economic activity on a local scale. If given the choice, perhaps it would not hurt to stop trying to always be "cool" and give an air of distinction to what thousands of working families have done for decades when planning some of their leisure time. Undoubtedly, these and other local practices will play a central role in tourism that can be carried out in the short and medium term.


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Breslow, S. (2019). Staycations for Romantic Couples Too Broke to TravelTripsawy, 26/06/2019.
Bronner, F., de Hoog, R. (2013). Economizing on vacations: the role of information searching. International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research, 7(1), 28-41.
De Bloom, J., Nawijn, J., Geurts, S., Kinnunen, U., Korpela, K. (2016). Holiday, travel, staycations and subjective well-being. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 25(4), 573-588.
Fletcher, R., Murray, I., Blázquez, M., Blanco, A. (2020). Turismo, decrecimiento y la crisis del COVID-19. Alba Sud, 24/03/2020.
Fox, S. (2014). Vacation or Staycation? The Neuman Business Review. Neumann University: Aston, PA. 
Heimtun, B. (2017). Home holidays as real holidays? Midlife single women’s experiences. In Khoo-Lattimore C. & Wilson, E (ed). Woman and Travel. Historical and Contemporary Perspectives. (pp. 202-215). New York: Apple Academic Press. 
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Moltz, J. (2009). Representing peace in tourism mobilities: staycations. Slow Travel and The Amazing Race. Journal of Tourism and Cultural Change, 7(4), 270-286.
Pantaleoni, A. (2020). Quedarse en casa con hijos: “¡Nos quedamos de vacaciones!” El País, 02/04/2020.
Rajmil, D. (2020). Turismo de proximidad, cuando lo local es tendencia. La Vanguardia, 28/03/2020.
Sharma, S. (2009). The Great American Staycation and the Risk of Stillness. M/C - A Journal of Media and Culture, 12(1), edició online. 
Yesawich, P. (2010). Are Staycations Here to Stay? World Property Journal, 29/04/2019.
This article is published in the framework of the project "Research Platform on Tourism, Human Rights and Gender Equity" developed by Alba Sud with the support of the Catalan Agency for Development Cooperation (ACCD) (call 2019).

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