COVID-19 Research Project

COVID-19 Research Project

International travel bans, COVID-19 lockdown restrictions & coping behaviours

Posted on 10.09.2020

On January 30th, 2020, coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has been declared ‘public health emergency of international concern’ (World Health Organisation (WHO). 2020)leading to a global lockdown where leaders“have implemented the world’s largest and most restrictive mass quarantines.” (Kaplan et al. 2020).Among the restrictions implemented, travel bans, limited mobility, and social distancing have confined individuals to their homes and eliminated the possibility to engage in once normal consumption behaviors including travelling and vacations.

Yet travels and vacations serve a critical function: they allow for a break from the daily, ordinary routine enabling individuals to find respite into an extraordinary experience (Appendix 1). Humans need tools to equip themselves for hard times and travel is one of them. (Smith 2013) It has been proved that “rest is not only necessary; its absence may cause serious illnesses and even the workers death (deaths due to overwork in Japan or karoshi are a real example). » (Bretones, 2017). Also, the role and benefits of holidays in people lives are multiples. (Pritchard and Morgan, 2013)

During extraordinary experiences, individuals

(a) visit different physical spaces;
(b) are exposed to different worldviews, habits, and norms;
(c) discover new aspects of themselves by being exposed to situations not normally encountered in the ordinary; and
(d) forge new social connections (Orazi and van Laer, 2020).

Returning from extraordinary experiences can be profoundly transformative (Reisinger 2013): individuals often incorporate the worldviews and logics of the worlds they have visited into their own, and update their identity projects accordingly (Husemann and Eckhardt 2019). Research also proved that people can suffer from “the post-holiday blues” or (post-vacation blues). (Bretones, 2017).

​“One of the common coping mechanisms for human beings is ‘fight’ or ‘flight’, the latter implying escape” (Smith, 2013). The reasons behind travelling can be different, however, “the desire to travel and escape from what Baudelaire referred to as the ‘spleen’ of everyday life and alienation from society is an age-old phenomenon (Smith, 2003a). 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. When traveling becomes impossible due to global restrictions, how do individuals compensate the need for extraordinary escapes?

​This research project aims at understanding how isolated individuals (due to COVID-19 lock-down) compensate the lack of the distinctive facets of travel as an extraordinary experience during times in which mobility is restricted. Using the COVID-19 crisis as the context of investigation, the project specifically aims to understand what compensatory consumption practices individuals engage into during lockdown times to remedy the lack of travel, and whether those practices have a positive effect in coping with this form of isolation. The three research questions asked were:

  1. In pre-crisis times, which of the four main values of vacation as an “extraordinary experience” do consumers miss the most upon returning to their daily routine? How does being isolated due to the COVID-19 restrictions influence this perception?
  2. What compensatory consumption practices do consumers engage into to appropriate this missing value? Specifically, what substitutes do they consume, and to what avail? Relatedly, this research question also aims at understanding how market actors are “delivering unique, extraordinary and memorable tourism experiences to potential visitors in order to maintain a sustainable competitive advantage over competitors (Hudson & Ritchie, 2009; Ritchie & Hudson,2009)” in this time of crisis?
  3. How do individual’s factors, including cultural worldviews and dispositional traits, influence which compensatory consumption practices are enacted?

Answering these questions would provide significant contributions to the tourism and extraordinary experience literature, shedding light on how consumers replicate the holiday experience in subsequent “leisure – tourism” experience to help maintain subjective well-being (Shane J. Lopez, C. R. Snyder, 2011).

The Phase 1 Report presents the first set of results emerging from a semi-structured questionnaire (see P19 of the report)

  • Reoccurring coping strategy facing Covid first lockdown
  • Missing the freedom and embodied experiences from their vacations and travels
  • Four reoccurring and unmet needs : freedom, outdoors / nature, face to face socialisation and exploring / New
  • Potential travel substitutes – activating vivid memories, sensations and emotions
  • Potential travel substitutes for people physically restricted to experience travel


Delphine Gimat & Carolyne Huber
Experi(e)nce International Consulting




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