Science - February 17, 2012

No greenery at home makes people take more holidays

People who live in 'grey' urban areas seem to make up by taking more holidays. They spend a total of 20 million more nights away from home.

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This is reported by researchers in Wageningen, Groningen and the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) in Landscape and Urban Planning online. The researchers found a noticeably high correlation between the number of overnight stays away from home and the availability of nearby recreational walking areas.
Not everyone has as much green space near home for leisurely walks or cycling. Those living In the countryside have more greenery than those living in or around the big cities. This so-called recreational shortage can be measured with a model, which is what researcher Sjerp de Vried (Alterra, Landscape Centre) has done. The result is somewhat predictable: the biggest shortage is in the Randstad. By far, most places in the Netherlands do not have any shortage.
Four nights
A more interesting aspect was revealed when De Vries and his colleagues juxtaposed such data and people's vacation patterns. There is a distinct relationship between spending nights elsewhere and the greyness of one's own living environment. Each year, the Dutch living in the greyest areas are on holiday twenty percent (four nights) more than those living among greenery. An average Dutch spends twenty nights away on vacation annually. De Vries is 'surprised' because this effect is stronger than he had expected. He attributes it to compensation behaviour, for want of a more plausible explanation. But he keeps his options open. 'We aren't really sure where these overnight stays take place. If the trips are to cities, we can't draw that conclusion.'
Low well-being
The extra overnight stays can also be interpreted as a low level of well-being caused by living in an overly grey environment, say the researchers. Throughout the Netherlands, this has led to twenty million extra overnight stays worth 500 million euros. Is this low level of well-being of concern? De Vries: 'It depends on how you look at it. Someone always benefits from these extra overnight stays, of course. As for the environment, this extra vacation mobility is not a good thing.'
According to De Vries, another issue to consider is whether this low well-being has been fully compensated for. 'There may be people who are unable to make good by taking more holidays. And that can affect their bond with nature and their support for nature policies. Research conducted elsewhere has shown, for example, that people living in the Randstad go to green areas for leisure thirty percent less. That sets one thinking.'

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