Though the continuing economic crisis has affected the way people think about holidays, one of the most significant results of increased free time in the Spain of the 1990s has been the emergence of what one could describe as a "leisure culture". The working week has been steadily reduced, owing to pressure from trade unions and concerns about unemployment. With the increase in total annual holiday periods, the traditional four-week August holiday is gradually being replaced by several shorter breaks of one to three weeks spread over the year. Furthermore, increased life expectancy has resulted in the emergence of a population referred to as the tercera edad, the active retired, who enjoy both leisure and significant spending power. In addition, the automation of domestic chores has increased free time for those women who are not active in the labour market. Also, the fact that young people are joining the job market much later than before has helped to extend their training period and their leisure time.
   The increase in free time has been accompanied by a generalized search for improved quality of life, which has led to a growing emphasis on broadly educational leisure-time activities: visits to theme parks, membership of sports clubs, attendance at events run by cultural institutions, and enrolment in training centres, have all given rise to burgeoning businesses designed to cater for increased leisure. Though the seaside still plays a leading role as a place to relax during the day and to enjoy night-life, an interest in other forms of holiday-making has started to develop. Concern for environmental issues has helped to promote holiday visits to "green" locations, such as natural parks and reserves, and the Camino de Santiago (the famous pilgrimage route along the North of Spain) attracts increasing numbers of people in search of physical as well as spiritual health. The countryside is now a favourite holiday destination for many Spaniards who live and work in the city during the week, and parcelas (plots), casas de campo or fincas (country houses) are favoured by those who want to enjoy the tranquillity of nature. Major cities have become increasingly important as tourist destinations since the 1980s. Historic cities such as Toledo or Cáceres; capitals such as Madrid or Barcelona; cultural centres such as Alcalá de Henares; or cities offering a variety of amenities such as Seville, offer an attractive alternative to the seaside resort. Moreover, cities like Granada or Cordoba could almost be considered museums for the complex cultural and architectural legacy of Spain, and this has generated interest in hitherto neglected locations in the interior of the country.
   Foreign vacations have also become quite common. Shopping trips to London, Paris, and other European capitals are widely organized for the two or three puentes (long weekends) occurring in the year, thanks to new transport facilities across Europe. Teachers and students have been increasingly taking part in EU-funded exchange programmes, and learning a foreign language, especially English, has become an international business since the 1970s, with many young people and professionals attending intensive residential language programmes during the summer.
   Further reading
   - Priestly, G.K. (1996) "City Tourism in Spain", in C.M.Law (ed.) Tourism in Major Cities, London: International Thompson Business (a study of the recent trend towards visiting cities as a modern alternative to more traditional tourism).
   - Schubert, A. (1990) A Social History of Modern Spain, London: Routledge (an analysis of the social development of Spain since 1800, examining the changing role of consumerism and economic prospects in modern society).
   - Vellas, F. and Bécherel, L. (1995) International Tourism, London: Macmillan Press (a socioeconomic study of worldwide tourism trends, covering Spain).

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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