Holidays to happiness

Stories of overseas holidays could be used to improve wellbeing in Melbourne's Ethiopian community, according to Victoria University researchers.

School of International Business Honorary Research Fellow Dr Sebastian Filep and Community Engagement Advisor and Coordinator Elleni Bereded-Samuel will see if writing about positive holiday experiences improves wellbeing and alleviates depression for those re-visiting the Horn of Africa.

"Studies have shown that regularly writing about pleasant things significantly lowers depression levels and increases levels of happiness," Dr Filep said. "What we don't know is if reminiscing and writing about intensely positive holiday experiences boosts happiness levels higher than writing about a good day at home, or an enjoyable visit to a local park."

The project is expected to commence in 2013, subject to ethics approvals. The study will be in partnership with the Horn of Africa Communities' Network (HACN). Dr Filep said no known tourism research had been conducted with the Ethiopian community and very little was known about Ethiopian tourists.

"While the Victorian community may not have a history of significant international travel experience, there is an increase in visiting-friends-and-relatives tourism to Ethiopia following the overseas migration to Melbourne," he said.

Ms Bereded-Samuel said many Australians of Ethiopian, Somali, Sudanese and Eritrean background returned to Africa each year to visit family and friends.

"Leaving Australia after 10 or 20 years to meet family and friends you left behind makes you feel very anxious and uncertain – you spend a lot of sleepless nights," she said. "On arrival you meet your family and friends who are still alive, meet new nieces and nephews. While visiting, some build or buy houses for their parents and pass a helping hand to others who can't find words to express their happiness."

Dr Filep said while tourism as an economic and social phenomenon had been well-studied health benefits of these experiences were only starting to be documented.

Ms Bereded-Samuel is an Ethiopian-born Australian who has lived here for over 17 years. She has won several national awards for her outstanding community engagement projects.

Dr Filep is a tourist behaviour expert with an interest in the emerging field of positive psychology – the study of wellbeing. He is also a tourism lecturer at New Zealand's University of Otago where he presents the new project idea on July 4.

(Images for this story courtesy of Befekir Kebede)

See all news