The World Leisure Organization recognizes five universities in the world as World Leisure Centers of Excellence (WLCE). Together, the WLCEs constitute a platform to provide their students with international and intercultural learning experiences, amongst others by regularly organizing Field Schools and Field Research Projects.

In parallel to the World Leisure Expo and Forum 2019, held in Hangzhou, China, the WLCE “Leisure Experience Research Opportunity”provides an opportunity for students of the World Leisure Centers of Excellence to participate in an internationally oriented field research project aimed at characterizing tourism and leisure experiences in the host city Hangzhou. In addition, students have the opportunity to join the World Leisure Expo and Forum as delegates.

A group of students from four different regions (Asia, Europe, South America, and North America) participated in the research project. The students were divided in groups and experienced a full-day visit to some of the prominent leisure attractions of the city of Hangzhou. During their visit students individually made autoethnographical field notes of their experiences. These field notes were worked out per continent of origin, and then shared in the larger group in order to find how leisure experiences were different between tourists from different continents and cultural backgrounds, and which of these experiences were common across cultural backgrounds. The final day of the project was reserved for preparing and delivering a presentation and short report of the main research findings.

Hangzhou has been known for centuries as “The Oriental City of Leisure”. The city is widely known for its waters and mountains, which is one reason why one of the most important leisure resources is the outstanding natural landscape. With its specific Chinese culture, Hangzhou is likely to be experienced quite differently by tourists and visitors from different provenances and cultural backgrounds, including Chinese and local residential leisure seekers. It is therefore important to develop a cross-cultural perspective on how the different leisure attractions of Hangzhou are experienced by different groups of visitors. This provides useful policy information for the Hangzhou municipality and Tourism board on how to make leisure more accessible for different groups of (local and international) tourists, and on how to optimize their leisure experiences.