The term recréation in French is a neologism first used in the late 1990s (Knafou et al., 1997) meaning free time, especially that connected to leisure and tourism. The idea was to use “the term recréation to describe leisure in the broad sense” (p. 198) and distinguish it from “récréation”, used in most publications to refer to the well-known break time or recess in school or during leisure activities. Here, recréation takes on a further meaning: “reconstitution of body and mind”, echoing the two meanings of “recreation” in English.

The concept has since then been integrated into the tourism lexicon referring to its ultimate purpose (Ill. 1). This approach is in line with that of Élias and Dunning (1998), articulating the idea of breaking with the term “deroutinisation”, where constraints are termed as “routines”.

Ill. 1. The tourist system and its purpose: recreation

This approach is also a way of defining that which tourism and leisure both share, and distinguishing this from mobility for other purposes (Ill. 2), with the objective of clarity. Its success with researchers, socio-professional circles and the institutional world has, admittedly, been minimal.

Ill. 2. Human mobility, an appraisal

Philippe DUHAMEL


  • Élias Norbert et Dunning Eric, 1994, Sport et civilisation. La violence maîtrisée. Paris, Payot, 369 p.
  • Knafou Rémy, Bruston Mireille, Deprest Florence, Duhamel Philippe, Gay Jean-Christophe et Sacareau Isabelle, 1997, «Une approche géographique du tourisme», L’Espace géographique. vol. 26, n°3, p. 193-204, en ligne.