The Department of Tourism of the University of Otago (Dunedin, New Zealand) has been recognized as a new World Leisure Center of Excellence (WLCE). The University of Otago is within the top two percent of universities worldwide according to the QS World University Rankings, is a major employer in the region and makes a significant contribution to the local economy. The University of Otago Business School in general and particularly the Department of Tourism plays a significant role in promoting tourism and leisure in the region, undertaking research for the tourism industry and producing a large number of tourism and leisure publications: books, journal articles, working papers and industry reports. The focus for leisure research at the University of Otago is wellbeing, with projects focused on growing personal and ecological wellbeing through leisure, which includes tourism, recreation, events, and hospitality.

The Head of the Department of Tourism, Professor Neil Carr, welcomed the announcement and declared that the association with the WLO is important as it gives the university access to a global network of leisure researchers and educators: “It is very positive for Otago that our research and teaching programme has been recognised as being world class”. Professor Carr said quality leisure experiences are becoming increasingly central to modern life, and it is important that research and research-informed teaching can provide meaningful insight into enhancing the human condition. “Being part of a global network will benefit students and staff, creating an important link between academic programmes and research ideas for our teaching and for our researchers. Students wanting to be the leaders of tomorrow now have access to a growing international network of Centers of Excellence”, Dr. Carr added.

Together with NHTV Breda University of Applied Sciences (the Netherlands) and Vancouver Island University (VIU, Canada), the University of Otago is now part of the WLCE network. The center will be known as the WLCE University of Otago, and will be situated within the Department of Tourism. As a new WLCE, it will now benefit from learning opportunities for undergraduate and postgraduate students via participation in collaborative research and teaching projects, PhD colloquiums, and international field trips and field schools.

We at WLO look forward to working hand in hand with the University of Otago and consider that this new collaboration can be a highly valuable contribution and an added value to the WLCE network and the wider WLO community in terms of research and international outreach. In the words of WLO Chief Operating Officer, Dr. Cristina Ortega, “the appointment of the University of Otago as WLCE becomes a great opportunity to expand the network´s activities and strengthen leisure advocacy in a new regional area for WLO”.

As part of a growing commitment to the work of the WLO, Dr Trudie Walters of the Department of Tourism has recently been appointed to the WLO Board of Directors.