The 15th World Leisure Congress gathered over 1,000 participants from 37 nations in São Paulo, Brazil, from August 28th to September 1st. The event was organized by the WLO and Serviço Social do Comércio (Sesc), with academic support from the Universidade de São Paulo (USP) and several professional and teaching institutions. The theme of the Congress was “Leisure Beyond Constraints”. Participants discussed the main barriers — physical, socioeconomic and symbolic — that still exist and prevent the access of all people to Leisure, as well as the need for overcoming and systematically confronting each of them. Over 700 high quality abstracts and poster were presented, and hundreds of people followed the livestreamed keynote presentation.

Early Career Researchers Session and Global Leisure Debate: supporting the research community and exchanging views on the future of leisure studies

In the form of a colloquium and organized for the first time in São Paulo 2018 WL Congress, the Early Career Researchers Session took place on the 30th August. During this event, organized by the WLO and presented by Dr. Douglas Kleiber and Dr. Antonio Bramante, a set of prospective paths to a career in research with respect to leisure studies in the form of a Q&A session were introduced. Firstly, the Special Interest Groups (SIG) as a particularly helpful tool to find collaboration possibilities across the entire globe were outlined. These temporary research groups of a specific scope can bring together like-minded researchers of any leisure field and help to overcome the hurdle for researchers of finding financing possibilities that generally vary from country to country. Secondly, a round of advice from relevant leisure scholars followed. The main takeaways from this constructive session was to continue life-long learning to always derive relevant research findings. Moreover, having a broad spectrum of interests also allows to combine different study fields and provides a broader picture of leisure studies. An important advice was given by Dr. Galit Nimrod who recommended to have real passion for one’s research work, as it will accompany you throughout your entire life.

The first edition of the Global Leisure Debate also took place on the 30th August. The objective of this debate was to give voice to international guests and the audience for them to express themselves on the issues that leisure development, and particularly leisure studies, will face in the coming years. WLO Chief Operating Officer Dr. Cristina Ortega posed four questions to the audience, who were then able to reply via an app installed on their smartphones. Replies by over a hundred participants were then projected and commented by experts on stage. To the question “Which social changes will have a major impact on leisure developments?”, the audience agreed that new lifestyles and technology cannot be disregarded (36% and 28% of respondents, respectively), closely followed by the diversity of populations and, at a greater distance, demography change and terrorism. According to the audience replies, those changes will result on a more connected (30%), innovative (24%), environmental (21%), inclusive (18%) and healthy (8%) leisure. With regard to the skills, competencies and knowledge that leisure professionals will need in the future, respondents mostly opted for the combination “Professional + Interpersonal” (40%) and Creativity (33%), with Experience design (17%) and Update (10%) being considered less important. Finally, a fourth question was posed about how do leisure studies courses and degrees provide adequate competences to address the future challenges posed by variables affecting leisure trends. Most respondents found the integration of generic professional skills to be crucial (48%), followed by research with communities (29%). After this first, very positive experience, the plan is to repeat this activity in upcoming WL Congresses, as a space for gathering knowledge about leisure trends and developments.

Beyond WL Congress: a profound legacy for the local community and the wider Latin American region

In the framework of the Douglas Ribeiro da Silva International Field School, 25 international students from 9 countries travelled to Perus, an underprivileged community in São Paulo. For four days, they lived in the community, hosted by locals which for the first time offer their places as homestays, for which they were trained prior to the Field School, to be able to host tourists in the future. Students could learn from the community and how they are offering leisure activities and heritage expressions as tourist products to attract national and international visitors. Field School participants were also able to contribute to this process, by making recommendations for the transformation through leisure to go on in Perus.

Furthermore, as it could not be otherwise with an 85% of the total participants being from Latin America, the 15th WL Congress was an important milestone for the region’s leisure community. The Latin America WL Chapter was constituted and presented during the Congress, bringing together researchers and professionals for the promotion of leisure in the region.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to participate at the WL Congress 2018. I work with culture and tourism in São Paulo, so for me the Congress gave me the access to people from different backgrounds and with different points of view about leisure, besides the opportunity to exchange ideas about how we can offer a better experience for everyone. The event showed me that leisure time as the time to escape, to dream and see the life from another perspective, also put us to think about the moment and how we manage our goals and aspirations. The main point was creating spaces for reflection and debate about the contemporary leisure beyond constraints, and how we can develop new proposals for each reality. It was a great experience! Congratulations to all involved in this important project, that brought social impact actions to different communities“.

Tayana Santos, participant at the 15th WL Congress in São Paulo.


We remind you that a bid process is open for hosting the WL Congress in 2024. We invite communities around the globe who are committed to enhancing quality of life through leisure to explore this possibility and eventually express their intention to bid before the 31st January 2019.

We want to take this opportunity to thank all those who made this WL Congress possible. Special thanks go to the amazing local teams at Sesc and the USP, as well as to delegates for their greatly valuable contributions and passion.