Lockdown / Immobility: paradox for the tourism industry

Updated: May 28, 2020

The epidemics in the 21st century are spreading faster and further than ever. Outbreaks that were previously localized can now become global very rapidly – just as fast, in fact, as an intercontinental aircraft can fly.“ (World Health Organisation (WHO),2018). The coronavirus (COVID-19) is an impactful health-related crisis. The United Nation Secretary General António Guterres has even warned this current outbreak being the “most challenging for the world since World War Two.”(Plett-Usher. B. 2020, Apr) A period “of intense uncertainty characterized by unpredictability and loss of control over key functions of systems (Moreira, 2007)”.(COMCEC 2017).

In January 30th, 2020, WHO declared that “COVID-19 a “public health emergency of international concern” (Wilder-Smith. A. & al. 2020, March) triggering a global breakdown including strict local and international measures. The 23rdApril 2020, 213 countries, areas and territories have reported cases. (WHO) ,“A third of the global population is on lockdown” including “India, China, France, Italy, New Zealand, Poland, and the UK (who) have implemented the world’s largest and most restrictive mass quarantines”(Kaplan. J. & Al. 2020, Mar)and China “the largest quarantine in human history.”(Kaplan. J. & Al. 2020, Mar)

Quarantine restrictions, social distancing, curfew, confinement, border shutdowns, travel bans, legal emigration changes, travel or immigration constraints, froze international exchanges, stopping the economies with the tourism industry being the first in line. In her research, Dr Yvette Reisinger mentioned: “The democratization of travel has revolutionized the ability to get away at least temporarily, but unfortunately, travel is often one of the first activities that is cut during times of recession.”

Regarding the Maslow Pyramid, “appropriately, tourism is found higher up in the Hierarchy of Needs. Thus, in this world with a rapidly growing number of crises” (Paraskevas et al., 2013) and “their consequences on demand, consumers have higher priorities i.e. basic needs, which they will strive to fulfil first before fulfilling their tourism related desires.“ (Dissertori. K. 2017.) However, taking into context the facts that tele-travail and online courses are one of the response to COVID-19, it is possible to make the hypothesis that if, as mentioned by the WHO, crisis and so on quarantine situation become a regularity or even a normality, the first stages of the pyramid might be fulfilled and people would have their home as workplace, seeking for entertainment and vacations.

(Source : Tourists: Why do people engage in tourism? Binus University)

“Holidays” became such a necessity, even a need, in cultures like Germany, France, Australia, UK, that they integrated them in their legislation. “For many family’s holidays represent an acquired right not only because it liberates peoples from working rules, but consigning memorable moments. As a social mechanism of escapement, tourism revitalizes the psychological frustrations of daily life.” (Korstanje. M. 2016) It is important to have a detachment from work now and then. Chosen wisely times of freedom can help to recover and refill our inner energy flow. It releases the pressure related to responsibilities.

If tourism is characterized by a temporal stage where pleasure is maximized, what happens whenever the subject should be returned to working life, is one of the aspects now are being discussed by specialists and therapists called “the concept of post-vocational syndrome””. Psychologists found that the emotional boost of vacation provided last about 3 to 4 weeks when we go back to work. (For perfectionists and workaholics, the fade-out may happen faster). “Some original hypotheses infer that holiday-makers suffer some cognitive adjustments, at time they are rechanneled to the routine, from where they departed. The conceptualization of holidays as a lost Eden bespeaks of an eternal state of prosperity where all needs are fulfilled. As an ideal stage, holidays generate higher expectances sometimes are conjoined to violent reactions, when ideals do not match with reality. “(Korstanje. M. 2016). Tourism has such a power on some people that even in his paper, Homa Hajibaba, studied the profile of “crisis-resistance “tourists. (Hajibaba, H & Al. 2015) “Crisis-resistance tourists”, would do anything to go in holidays despite the crisis situations.

In that case, situations like COVID-19 lock-down, brings paradox as a part of his definition “tourism is a social, cultural and economic phenomenon which entails the movement of people to countries or places outside their usual environment for personal or business/professional purposes.”(UNWTO). It involves a physical movement. Also,one of the main reasons holidays have been invented, is to have a break from the daily routine, away from the obligations, for example from work. Vacations are part of the practices allowing “extraordinary experiences” bringing disconnection with the daily routine (ordinary).

"Travitude. (n.) When you start to get grumpy and sassy because you miss travelling."

In societies where the experience economy is increasing, pinpoint which of the main aspects of reaching “extraordinary experiences” (e.g. travel) is lacking when people go back into the ordinary (e.g. daily routine). When governments apply quarantine restrictions, locking-in the population, one aspect of the extraordinary experience facilitated by tourism is denied; the physical movement. To endure such disruptions in their routine such as distancing themselves from friend and family or having a limitation of physical movements, the consumer have to be resilient, developing coping strategies, using compensatory consumption behaviours. (Sarner. M. 2020. Apr) Whether these behaviours have a positive effect in coping with isolation such as COVID-19 is little understood. As it has been mentioned in “New Scientist”, the COVID-19 situation is “a social experiment that has never been done before”(Sarner. M. 2020. Apr) offering overviews of the possible scenario of compensatory behaviours.

Little research looked into the strategies consumers are using to maintain the “subjective well-being” (Happiness) when they come back from holidays, into their daily routines. That statement is important as according to Maximiliano Emanuel Korstanje , 2016,“holiday-makers suffer some cognitive adjustments, at time they are rechanneled to the routine, from where they departed. The conceptualization of holidays as a lost Eden bespeaks of an eternal state of prosperity where all needs are fulfilled. As an ideal stage, holidays generate higher expectances sometimes are conjoined to violent reactions, when ideals do not match with reality.” And even more for “crisis resistant tourists”.

So it is interesting to question. What do people miss from their lack of movement? How this profile of consumers adapt in such a period of lock-down/isolation and how consumers engage into these compensatory consumption behaviours in the exact time of isolated in longer period of time in a case such as COVID-19?

I have been starting to interview people about this subject. For now, 10 people shared their stories and their insights have been really interesting. Looking forward to sharing them with you, I am looking for 10 more motivated volunteers who are used to travel and have been affected by COVID-19 quarantine restrictions

What to expect ?

We will have an anonymous chat over the phone, zoom or FaceTime, for 30min up to 1h. 

I would love you to share your story about your Isolated experience and explain how travel matters to your well-being. 


Bowen. D. and Clarke. J. (2009) “Contemporary Tourist Behaviour. Yourself and Others as Tourists” Cabi .Oxford Brookes University, UK

COMCEC COORDINATION OFFICE (2017)Risk and Crisis Management in Tourism Sector: Recovery From Crisis in the OIC Member Countries” (Online)

Dissertori . K. (2017) “Tourism providers‘ reactions to decreased demand following a crisis. The impact of the Swine Flu on the tourism market: a panel data approach” Master thesis Submitted to Dr. Ulrich Gunter. Model university, Vienna (online)

Hajibaba, H., Gretzel, U., Leisch, F. & Dolnicar, S. (2015). « Crisis-resistant tourists ». Annals of Tourism Research, 53 46-60. (Online)

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Jiang. L. & Yu. L. (2017) “Consumption of a literary tourism place: a perspective of embodiment” Tourism Geographies. An International Journal of Tourism Space, Place and Environment” Volume 22, 2020. (Online)

Kaplan. J. & Al. (2020, Mar) “Countries around the world are reopening — here's our constantly updated list of how they're doing it and who remains under lockdown’ Business Indider Australia (Online)

Korstanje. M. (2016) “Divorcing after Holidays: From Sacredness to Post-Vacation Blues Syndrome” University of Palermo, Argentina. Global Dynamics in Travel, Tourism, and Hospitality. Pages: 15 (online)

Pappas. N. (2016) “Global Dynamics in Travel, Tourism, and Hospitality” The university of West London, UK and Ilenia Bregoli, University of Lincoln, UK. Focus : Chapter 5 “Divorcing after Holidays : From sacredness to Post-Vacation Blues Syndrome” by Maximiliano Emanuel Korstanje

Plett-Usher. B. (2020, Apr) “Coronavirus: Greatest test since World War Two, says UN chief” BBC News(Online)

Sarner. M. (2020. Apr) “How to protect your mental health in the time of coronavirus” NewScientist (Online)

Smith. J. (2018) “Transforming Travel : Realising the potential of sustainable tourism”. CABI

Sonnentag. S. (2012) « Psychological Detachment From Work During Leisure Time: The Benefits of Mentally Disengaging From Work” (Online)

UNWTO (2010) “International Recommendations for Tourism Statistics 2008” Department of Economic & social affairs. United Nations

Wilder-Smith. A. & al. (2020, March) “Can we contain the COVID-19 outbreak with the same measures as for SARS?” The lancet. Infectious Diseases. VOLUME 20, ISSUE 5, E102-E107, MAY 01, 2020 (Online)

World Health Organization (WHO) (2018) “Managging epidemics. Key facts major deadly diseases”. (Online)

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