History Of Public And Commercial Leisure Provision Tourism Essay

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Leisure can be defined as the process whereby everyone gets freedom from lengthy duties and everyday jobs. Roberts describes leisure as 'the relatively freely chosen non-work area of life'. This shows that leisure can be done anytime or when the body call for it. The demand of recreation is constantly increasing, therefore leisure providers try to do as much as possible to attract people and make all kinds of profit in all the ways they can. The leisure provision can be divided into two sectors: first one is public - which is provided by the government. Torkildsen (2005, p.131) describes it as 'provided by a public authority or by legislation for the general use of public'. The second one is commercial sector, presented by private industries that are willing to give luxury leisure in return for money. However, their aim is to gain 'financial profit and an adequate return of investment' Tordkilsen (2005, p.193). As we have been asked to write about leisure providers in this essay we will be looking through the history of the two sectors that are involved in the topic, by discussing the different types of organizations within them and saying who benefits from it by trying to explain why these sectors run leisure facilities.

History of public and commercial leisure provision

Leisure existed during ancient period as part of everyday life. As soon as it attracted more people, different providers of amusement have emerged. First signs of this division are dated on 18th century. In this period aristocracy provided exclusive sport like fox-hunting, horse-racing, shooting, 'to those who were socially qualified' Cunningham (1980, p.17). In other words, it was for wealthy people that often possessed a land. In these circumstances gentlemen (people from middle class) and also gentry (those who had independent income but no land) created their own clubs and often met in assembly rooms. Taverns and public houses provided leisure for labourers, small manufacturers and poor people. Among them the most favourite amusements were dog-fights, cock-fights or bull-beatings.

The second half of 18th century to 19th has brought significant social and industrial changes, which also had an impact on leisure provision. During this time people were moving from villages and small towns to cities. It caused overcrowding, increase of crime, poverty and longer hours of work. People could not enjoy leisure and space as they used to do. The most common behaviours were drinking and gambling. That is why important reforms had to take place. The 19th century has changed people's thinking about what the leisure really was. Reformers were deeply concerned about three different aspects which include welfare of children, urban life with no opportunity for healthy exercise and recreation and encouraging governments to act against social injustice and hardship of masses. As a result of that improvement, government has created Physical Training and Recreation Act 1937, which enabled people access to the leisure facilities. Employers recognized the importance of providing leisure to their employees and they started to create social and sports clubs in order to fulfil their needs. In 20th century also people from working class started to demand leisure. Public baths, houses and music halls became available not only for wealthy people, but also for those poorer. Leisure gained more recognition after the introduction of cinema, spectator sports and television, which came ultimately as a result of two World Wars. Finally, in 1960 the actual picture of leisure was developed as we know it today.

Different organizations within public and commercial sector

In current times, we can see clear division of leisure providers. The sectors we will be discussing are public sector and commercial one - as a part of the private sector. Both sectors provides leisure and recreation facilities in a wide range.

'Public sector organizations are those owned by the government. This can be national government or local government' Tribe, J. (2005, p.26)

Source: Adapted from Tribe J., (2005, p.25)

Facilities which are provided by public sector are accessible to us in two different ways. First, is an access without any fee. Examples of them are urban parks, playgrounds, libraries, picnic areas, nature trails, beaches and country parks. They are supported with rates and taxes we pay to concerned authorities. The other way of getting those services is to pay in order to use them. These facilities include swimming pools, playing fields, golf courses, marinas, arts centres, theatres and sports centres.

If the leisure is not provided by local authorities, it may include difficulties in affording those facilities. Young people would not have an access to their culture and usage of open land for other purposes like supermarkets and car parks etc.

That is why central government provides leisure open for general use. This governing body is responsible for making decisions on major policy and establishes the way in which local government can act. Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is a link between Local and Central governments. Therefore, it has significant influence on leisure itself. For instance, the ODPM is responsible for planning improvements such as increasing standards of leisure facilities. Another important department in central government is DCMS (Department of Culture, Media and Sport). This department has a responsibility of providing policy on: The Arts, sport, The National Lottery, libraries, museums and galleries, broadcasting, film, press freedom and regulation, The Historic Environment and tourism.

Another sector, which is engaged in providing leisure, is private sector. Although it is divided for voluntary, which is non-profit making and commercial, our case of study will be only the commercial part of it.

'Private sector organizations are those which are non-government-owned. They can be further sub-divided into profit-making organizations and non-profit-making organizations' Tribe, J. (2005, p.26)

Source: Adapted from Tribe J., (2005, p.25)

Commercial sector is a part of private sector which does not include voluntary organizations. Their activity is mainly directed to make financial profit from users of those services. They try to meet the demand of consumers but it is very hard to do it on current market. The main purpose of commercial sector is to achieve a financial profit or adequate return of investment. It does not exclude benefit in other sectors, but their predominant aims are different. Examples of commercial market are sport clubs, squash clubs, bowling, themed restaurants, amusement parks, holiday camps or cinemas.

'Commercial organizations do not have an intrinsic interest in leisure and recreation, in and of itself, but in leisure as a source of profit'

Torkildsen, G. (2004, p. 249)

There is a correlation between both sectors mentioned above. When commercial sector creates new market, it tries to reach the highest level of productivity. After that, when they have to invest more money again, it is more beneficial for them to create a new market rather than invest outlay on the previous one. In these circumstances commercial sector puts strain on public sector, because the demand has been created already. If commercial sector do not want to work on it any longer, public sector is expected to do it.

Commercial sector is often run by entrepreneurs. There are thousands of businesses involved in commercial sector, but they have been taken over by multinational companies. As a result of this the choices of products that are sold in the market are limited. In order to reduce risk factor in current economic recession period, business people have to sell the businesses in which they may not be good but concentrate on a vertical supply chain.

Both sectors have to attract potential clients or lose profit. In the past both sectors dealt with different activities of their own range, but now they have been overlapped in most part of their business.

Who benefits

Leisure is something that people indulge in their everyday life; according to Doggett and O'Mahoney (1991, p.23) it 'is important because it enhances the quality of life in society'. Leisure is an activity that can take place anywhere. Roberts (1978, p.125) says 'individuals can use their leisure for recreation. Alternatively, however, they can spend their time and money in their families, on their homes, in education and other mainstream institutions'. Elaborating on this, it shows that people can choose whatever way they wanted to spend their leisure time without being disturbed. The two types of sectors we have, public and commercial, exist to give entertainment to local communities. But although they have the same assumption, they both offer various kinds of amusement (as mentioned above) and both give benefit in their own different ways.

'Commercial providers invest in and manage public sector facilities; the public sector offers high quality health and fitness opportunities, which have traditionally been offered by the commercial sector, while the voluntary and commercial sector are beginning to establish partnerships primarily for the benefit of customers of commercial facilities' The Higher Education Academy (2005) [Online].

Still, it is mostly the people in the leisure industry that benefit the most, especially within the commercial sector, which is a dominant one in United Kingdom, as they provide leisure and service in return of money. Commercial sector is directed towards two groups of customers: those with disposable income and tourist. They - as the wealthy people - are able to make bigger profit for the company.

This sector only give discounts or buy a package and get the other free or half price. It is a completely profit orientated part of leisure industry. However, most customers get refund, if they did not enjoy the leisure that was provided for them by the companies. On the other hand, it gives a lot of opportunities as far as employment is concerned, this sector delivers it. Moreover, it revenues income from abroad and drives development within the country. Practical advice for business [Online].

Public sector is provided by the government and local authorities in order to give equality to people, to make leisure accessible for those, who cannot afford it - it raises the quality of life. Among leisure there are many sports facilities which help its' users to stay healthy and fit, for example by tackling obesity. Public sector is also responsible for enabling the disabled access to these facilities. What is more, it supplies several kinds of discounts for various kinds of people. One of them is free theatre entry for people under 26 years, to encourage them to use that leisure facility and to make them more familiar to the culture. Also the elderly (over 75) have a cheaper access to many services. There are many local societies within this sector, like Woodhouse Road Family Life Centre for example, which is a group that 'brings together older people from the local community' The Higher Education Academy (2005) [Online]. Older people can attend the meetings to have fun and 'remain active and sociable' The Higher Education Academy (2005) [Online]. So, in public sector it is not only about various facilities, sometimes just mutual support is enough. It is directed toward socially excluded people - people are out of work, with low income and ethnic and disabled communities. Generally, this sector is responsible for providing leisure to everybody for free, so every participant is the one who receives a benefit.

There is also a lot of support from European Union. Governments can get grants to make an improvement within their countries and local authorities are also able to develop leisure facilities within the cities. This makes citizens proud of the place they live; they have more places to go to and to entertain themselves. Such actions decrease hooliganism by reducing anti social behaviour and attract tourist and event co-ordinations.

Specific reasons why public and commercial sector run leisure facilities

Local authorities and societies play essential role in providing, supporting and developing leisure and sports opportunities. As local authority have different types of health services such as free consultancy and distribution of drugs (medicine) to the people in need. However local authority is the important part of a borough that keeps in touch with leisure and recreational activities. They are responsible for scheduling new improvement for protecting the environment and for improving the quality of life through local transport initiatives or better green spaces. In sort, local authorities have a significant direct impact on the success of communities. Public sectors really help to developed new supports to the people such as best athletic development and provide funding for developing new sport policies.

Sports and recreational conveniences are offered by together private and public sectors. Mostly health centres and fitness clubs are organized by local authorities in the local areas. According to visitor survey by Tourism South East 2004/05 Leisure and Recreation [Online] in England about 13.5 million tourists visited The National Park. The National Park provides a most popular entertaining resource for the visitors living within and around the area, and also attracts several tourist from corner to corner of southern England and on a national scale as well. New developments within leisure also have positive impact of other ways; Leisure and recreation contributes can change the image of a city and lead to increased private savings. The main reason behind the existence of commercial sector is to make a profit. Commercial sector is responsible for delivering quality services for the people with disposable income. Also the particular facilities like swimming pools, which require a lot of maintenance, are only provided by commercial sector. The reason for the provision of swimming pools by commercial sector is that they have got sufficient amount of money for the maintenance work. As the competition is inevitable in this sector so they are concentrating more on the quality of services.

These sectors run leisure services because off several reasons such as creating awareness and keeping society healthy. According to Miller the globalization of sport has also created hyper-competitive worldwide surroundings where many nations try to find their moment of fame on the world sport stage. Hoye et al, (2009, p.17). It is important that local communities have access to range of entertainment, arts, sports and recreational facilities for enjoyment. Local councils provide wide range of leisure and sports services including sports pitches, playing fields and playgrounds. Local authorities provide public parks and open spaces for older citizen and people in need. Arts centres venues and theatres, galleries and museums are also run by local communities. Local authorities also conduct various festivals, sporting and culture events. Providing leisure amenities from local establishment are very beneficial for native people. As local authorities have variety of entertainment and relaxation activities. People can find all facilities easily and cheaper then managing on themselves. Local authorities will motivate people towards healthy life style, by investing more money in sport and leisure facilities. Local authorities always have great emphasizes on promoting leisure and sports in the local areas.


After all of our considerations about the given topic, we came to the following conclusions. Leisure is not a new phenomenon; it has been existing as a part and parcel of our lives since ancient times. There is a wide range of different organizations dealing with the provision of leisure and recreation facilities. The services provided by local authorities are easily accessible to each class of community. On the other hand, leisure facilities provided by commercial sector are for those people, who have disposable income. The services provided by both sectors constitute to the high quality of life and nation's health. It is beneficial to invest in both sectors as they are growing dramatically and the needs and demands of the people would be lasting in coming future. From the Travel and Tourism point of view, we can say that, tourists are able to use only a few services, provided by local authorities or voluntary sector, but they can use all the facilities provided by commercial sector as every facility is available to them after payment. As far as Events' opinion is concerned, the situation here looks similar to the one above. People participating in events can enjoy those provided by both public and commercial sector equally, even if they are not citizens of given place.