Digital technology is becoming more common to document the range of leisure and recreation programs, facilities and services. For instance, a new national infrastructure and data base has recently been released in Australia to assist organisations to manage their own facilities and to understand what facilities are available across the country. This initiative at its inception in March 2020 had over 14,000 sites covering indoor and outdoor facilities (Active Exchange 2020). Digital databases with the capacity to enter, update, edit and review information are likely to become more common and effective for communities to establish and manage their inventories of leisure and recreation programs, facilities and services. It is important that leisure and recreation inventories are established and maintained by the organisations that own and/or operate programs, facilities and services, so planners and program, facility and service staff can conduct their activities in the most effective manner.
Recognition of the importance of the report review processes as part of planning research will assist leisure and recreation planners to more effectively gain access to information that can be applied in local settings.The improved capacity to search for data across the globe enhances the accessibility of other reports about leisure and recreation planning. Unfortunately, there are some limits on accessing some reports (some governments block access to internet search options and resources), and research via pay for downloads prevents many from gaining access to the most current information. There is a need for planning and funding organisations, planners, academics and publishers to release information on planning strategies and planning research findings to the public domain and for governments to recognise the value of allowing information to be made available to professional planners. Such information will help to develop a more informed planning profession.
It is unfortunate that the Benefits Hub (Benefits Hub 2016) no longer accepts new information because it provided an important service to leisure and recreation professionals for many years. The authors hope that further initiatives similar to the Benefits Hub will be established over the coming years and urge all organisations associated with leisure and recreation planning to advocate this and similar actions.
Assess community needs and aspirations
Technology' provides more opportunities to engage with more diverse members of the community to understand their leisure and recreation needs. Leisure and recreation planners need to use different types of technology to engage with their communities. As an example, it has become common for many individuals to have smart phones and other portable communications devices. As was demonstrated in Case study 7.2, these can be used to contribute information to a planning project. Similarly, polling software that immediately combines and displays on a screen the inputs from workshop participants, can be used as an interactive tool to gain immediate feedback from individuals and groups on leisure and recreation planning issues. This can be used to generate discussions, share diverse ideas and help participants learn about each others experiences and expectations.
Social media have become a common approach for creating and contacting more people and more diverse sectors of communities to share information and invite their contributions. However, there are sampling and access management issues that need to be implemented (refer Chapter 7) if the integrity of the collected data is to be guaranteed.
Technology has a great capacity to help a community' to connect to leisure and recreation planning projects. However, this use needs to be complemented by' other consultation initiatives to make sure that all community sectors are able to contribute to leisure and recreation plans as it is often the most disadvantaged that have the most barriers to involvement.
Leisure and recreation participation
Developing countries are likely to see more demand for leisure and recreation programs, facilities and services as their economies grow. A rangeof organisations and planners have collected extensive data on leisure and recreation participation, but this often does not track trends consistently while the scope of the data collected has varied over time, thus hampering effective long-term analysis.
Over the years, the authors have witnessed numerous government and university' initiatives to collect leisure and participation data designed to enable a meaningful analysis to identify long-term trends. Unfortunately, frequent changes in organisational responsibilities and in the scope of the data collected have hindered the quality' and depth of analysis that has been possible. The hope exists that the present uncoordinated approach to the collection of leisure and recreation participation data may improve as international organisations become more involved in collection processes.
There is increasing recognition of the value of leisure and recreation to health and well-being. The World Health Organisation recognises the value of physical activity with its positive impacts on physical and mental health. There is also extensive evidence of the capacity of natural and blue spaces to make positive contributions to individual’s health. It is hoped that the recognition of the value of leisure and recreation participation will continue to gain support and lead to both a better understanding of it and more coordinated and long-term research initiatives. Leisure and recreation planners, academics, researchers, planning organisations, professional associations and relevant government organisations are encouraged to engage in this process.