Lead researcher Dr Jun Wen said the diverse team of tourism, public health and marketing experts investigated how tourism could benefit those living with dementia. “Medical experts can recommend dementia treatments such as music therapy, exercise, cognitive stimulation, reminiscence therapy, sensory stimulation and adaptations to a patient's mealtimes and environment,” he said. “These are all also often found when on holidays. This research is among the first to conceptually discuss how these tourism experiences could potentially work as dementia-interventions.”
The varied nature of tourism provides plenty of opportunities that could help dementia patients, he continued. These include:
- Being in new environments
- Having new experiences that provide cognitive and sensory stimulation
- More social mealtimes
- Fresh air and sunshine resulting in increased serotonin levels.
Covid-19 changes perception of travel
Global lockdowns as a result of Covid-19 have meant that travel is viewed as being more valuable than it was before. Dr Wen explained: “Tourism has been found to boost physical and psychological wellbeing. So after Covid, it’s a good time to identify tourism’s place in public health – not just for healthy tourists, but vulnerable groups.” Looking ahead, Dr Wen said: “We’re trying to do something new in bridging tourism and health science. There will have to be more empirical research and evidence to see if tourism can become one of the medical interventions for different diseases like dementia or depression. So, tourism is not just about travelling and having fun; we need to rethink the role tourism plays in modern society.”
Of course, the role of travel insurers in this idea is key – if there are groups of patients going on holiday suffering from illnesses like dementia, the travel insurance and assistance they require will be specialised and need to cater for their specific illnesses. Accurate medical underwriting will be essential to allowing these groups to travel safely in the knowledge that they would be supported by a travel insurer if necessary.