The Intersection of Hospitality, Tourism, Recreation, and Public Health

Welcome back to all students, faculty, and staff!  It is hard to believe that winter break is over and it is already 2018.  That means it’s time to jump into the first career community month of the year with a theme of Hospitality, Tourism, and Recreation.

You might be thinking, “What do hospitality, tourism, and recreation have to do with public health?”  I’m here to share a few ideas of how these are all interconnected.  This topic is quite meaningful to me, as my undergraduate degree is in hospitality and tourism management and I am currently working on my Master of Public Health degree.  Over the past five years or so, I have worked my way through the restaurant and event industries, and found my way to public health, with surprising amounts of crossover between them all.

Let’s break this down by each field.  Within the hospitality industry, we often think of hotels, restaurants, and events.  Hotels fit a need to create a home away from home and possess many opportunities to contribute to public health causes.  Non-smoking rooms help protect our respiratory health, access to pools and gyms provide opportunities for physical activity, and the little cards which you find on the pillows, asking you think twice about changing the sheets, help in protecting our environmental health.

The link between restaurants and public health might be a little more obvious, as nutrition and access to safe and healthy foods are huge topics within public health.  I personally believe that restaurants will play a major role in fighting the high rates of obesity in our country.  In fact, there are major organizations who would agree with me, such as Menus of Change.  Furthermore, County and State Departments of Health play a major role in inspecting restaurants for food safety issues, and national organizations, such as the FDA and USDA, work to protect our nation’s food supply.

In the events world, I have personally witnessed positive impacts on public health.  In 2015, I worked for the medical division of the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles.  One of our main responsibilities was providing health care to the athletes through the Healthy Athletes® program.  And let’s not forget conventions such as the American Public Health Association (APHA) Annual Meeting, which brings together over 12,000 public health professionals.  Each year, the APHA increases its efforts to promote health and wellness among the attendees through programs such as steps challenges, breathing classes, and daily yoga.

The “Rise Up” pose by staff of the Special Olympics World Games LA2015.

Next on the discussion list is the Tourism Industry.  I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word “tourism,” my mind wanders to a tropical paradise and I swear my blood pressure drops!  All joking aside, tourism allows us an opportunity to relax and recharge, focusing on our mental health and maybe even improving our social health by visiting with family and friends.  On top of that, think of the educational opportunities provided by the tourism industry.  We hear time and time again that education and health are so intricately related, so let’s continue to find opportunities to learn while also having fun.

And last, but not least, the recreation industry offers even more opportunities to impact our health and wellness.  When was the last time you visited a local, regional, or national park?  How did that experience make you feel?  Every time I walk my dog around Bryan Park here in Bloomington, I experience the benefits of physical activity, immersion in nature, social interaction, and many more.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the connections between these industries and public health, but hopefully you will feel inspired to think of some additional connections on your own.  As the temperatures remain frigid and you get back to the grind of school, keep an eye out for the events taking place around the School of Public Health for Hospitality, Tourism, & Recreation Career Community Month.  Have a wonderful spring semester and cheers to a happy and successful 2018!

Derek Hermann


Derek Herrmann is a second-year Master of Public Health student with a concentration in physical activity and also a visiting research associate at Eppley Institute for Parks and Public Lands.  He studies the role of the built environment in active living, with additional interests in parks and recreation and arts and cultural development.

By Derek Herrmann
Derek Herrmann Graduate Student, Visiting Research Associate