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Will COVID-19 Boost Sustainable Tourism: Wishful Thinking or Reality?

Competence Centre Tourism and Mobility, Free University of Bolzano-Bozen, 39031 Brunico, Italy
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2022, 14(3), 1686;
Submission received: 14 January 2022 / Revised: 25 January 2022 / Accepted: 29 January 2022 / Published: 1 February 2022


Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, scholars have presented publications discussing a shift of tourism towards a higher level of sustainability. Many argue that in 2020, people were not able to travel as usual and therefore could discover the added value of a sustainable vacation through new experiences in new, often domestic destinations. Using a quantitative online panel-based study in five European countries and the USA, we looked for evidence supporting such arguments. We analyzed demographics, the observed change in destination choice, and important criteria when selecting a different destination, including potential effects of the pandemic on traveling. We uncovered possible impacts of the 2020 vacation experience on future traveling and looked at both travel push factors and social values of non-travelers and travelers for explanation. Overall, we could not find any evident signals for the pandemic to be a trigger for more sustainable traveling, nor a long-term change in future demand.

1. Introduction

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a worldwide crisis that affected and altered most people’s habits and lifestyles. In particular, the tourism industry is struggling up to the present time because of travel restrictions as well as changes in consumers’ travel decisions. According to Eurostat [1], the number of nights spent at European Union (EU) tourist accommodation establishments fell by 52% compared to 2019. An even more dramatic drop can be seen in the number of international arrivals in Europe, which had reached a new record of 746.3 million in 2019 and declined by 68% to 235.9 million in 2020. This dramatic disruption of the global tourism system and related phenomena provoked an immediate response of the tourism researchers’ community as it offers a wide variety of research possibilities. A query on Scopus looking for papers published since 2020 with the search string “(corona OR COVID-19 OR (corona pandemic)) AND (tourism OR tourist)” for title, abstract, or keywords obtains nearly 2000 hits. This dynamic underlines a huge interest in research in this newly emerged field. Zenker and Kock [2] discussed research opportunities created by the pandemic and suggested to scrutinize research on how the coronavirus pandemic might reshape tourist behavior, i.e., how the pandemic influences the thinking and feelings of tourists, and thereby travel decision-making.
As a further major issue in tourism research, we found the discussion about a sustainable orientation of the tourism system. Reams of research results have been published for more than 30 years investigating sustainability aspects at the supply as well as the consumers’ side. In recent years, a further strand of tourism research has gained dynamic development: tourism’s impact on climate change and climate change adaptation of the tourism system. Both fields of research, namely sustainability and climate change, are closely linked: the reduction of the carbon footprint of traveling can be reached by acting on several of the 17 UN SDGs. High potential for improving sustainability and reducing the carbon footprint offer goals 7 (affordable and clean energy), 12 (responsible consumption and production), and 13 (climate action). Mobility has a direct link to these three goals. For most types of tourist trips, the journey to and back from the destination causes the largest part of the carbon footprint. In particular, international trips by plane contribute largely to greenhouse gas emissions.
In general, the question arises if the restriction of international travel due to the pandemic will contribute to more sustainable and less climate-stressing tourism in the long term. Our research aims at looking at indications for changes at the demand side. Such a long-term change would need a lasting change of travelers’ destination preferences caused by new travel experiences in nearby destinations in 2020 or by the renouncement of travel in 2020. To find this out, this study compares the travel behavior of consumers of six countries in 2019 and 2020 with a focus on their traveler variables as known from destination choice models. In particular, we are looking for possible explanations based on their travel push factors and personal values. Based on the observed behavioral changes caused by the pandemic, we uncover the potential for a long-term behavioral change of travelers in general and towards sustainable tourism in particular.

2. COVID-19 and Sustainable Tourism: Status of Research

We searched the Scopus database for articles addressing general aspects of traveler behavior change and, more specifically, in relation to sustainable travel behavior caused by the pandemic. We analyzed publications which were published since 2020. By looking at their content and type, we can see a trend over time (see Table 1). The early published papers are mostly essays (type = E) reflecting the observed effects of the pandemic and discussing visions for the future of both tourism and the behavior of travelers. First, empirical papers up to mid-2020 are mostly a mix of empirical research papers (ERP) and reflections for both future development and effects in an essay style. Papers published later frequently focus on a specific group, type, or place of traveling. They compare observable behavior before and during the pandemic on an empirical basis. Some anticipate potential future behaviors based on hypothetical scenarios of travel after the end of the pandemic. A few theoretical research papers (TRP) project results from previous behavioral research to the current pandemic situation and discuss potential future development as well as travelers’ behavior, applying well-established theories and models. Such papers are published also starting mid-2020. Finally, we see a decreased research interest concerning the impact of the pandemic on post-COVID-19 traveling.
Many hypotheses have been formulated on how tourist behavior might or might not change once the pandemic comes to an end and whether the pandemic will lead to a shift towards more sustainable tourism.
Romagosa [5] believes that post-crisis tourists might prefer destinations closer to their place of residence as safety concerns and a reduced economic spending power might trigger such a holiday decision, contributing to more sustainable tourism. Similarly, Matiza [18] connected such shifts to the effects of perceived risks. Galvani et al. [3] also see COVID-19 as transformative, with some effects lasting long-term, such as fewer but more appreciated trips. This opinion is shared by Stankov et al. [13] who theorized that the experience of the pandemic has created more mindful tourists. Mackenzie and Goodnow [10] predicted micro-adventures to be a new normal after the pandemic, i.e., closer to home travels with a focus on simplicity, nature, and personal development, while Ioannides and Gyimóthy [8] foresee risk avoidant travelers also close to home and domestic destinations, as well as transformed mobility patterns possibly also over the long run. These views are shared by Pardo and Ladeiras [20]. Wen et al. [12] see a strong influence of COVID-19 on Chinese travelers, predicting a growing interest in independent travel, luxury trips, and health and wellness tourism, but also in slow tourism and smart tourism. Van Wee and Witlox [25] expect a lasting change in activity and travel patterns, and, as many other authors (e.g., [11]), Benjamin et al. [6] see the pandemic as an opportunity and call for both consumers and tourists to change their behavior towards more sustainable travel choices. Zwanka and Buff [14] see an increased potential for virtual reality to replace future tourism and a focus on environmental stewardship. Miao et al. [22] recognized that the pandemic has some long-term effects on tourist behavior not only COVID-19-related, such as “travel abstinence behavior” or contrary “compensative “binge” travel behavior”, but also in a broader context, such as de-globalization, over-tourism, consumerism, or authenticity.
However, there are also voices that assume behavioral changes triggered by the pandemic will not be long-term and will disappear after restrictions have been lifted and life returns to “normalcy”. Hall et al. [9] assumed that there will be only a temporary, short-term focus on domestic tourism which will disappear as soon as mobility constraints are lifted. They also doubt that individual sustainability efforts will have an impact on global sustainability as long as the focus of global and international organizations does not shift away from the growth paradigm and business-as-usual. Crossley [7] predicted that ecological grief experienced because of the COVID-19 pandemic will likely influence the mentality of tourists and their future decision-making but, at the same time, sees the chances of a major shift in consumer behavior limited due to the persistent attitude–behavior gap in sustainable tourism.
Early empirical evidence about the impacts of the pandemic on the behavior of tourists can be found in the Netherlands as de Haas et al. [15] presented results from longitudinal data and expects long-term behavioral changes in mobility patterns due to the coronavirus pandemic, with an increase in walking and cycling, and a reduction in air travel, while other changes, such as reduced outdoor activities, are presumed to be temporal. Del Chiappa et al. [27] showed reactions to the pandemic of Italian travelers and found three clusters: (1) the all-around concerned tourists with a strong need for cleanliness and hygiene, adopting more coping behaviors; (2) the middle-concerned tourists; and (3) the outdoor-driven tourists that are the least concerned about COVID-19. All three groups shared a certain preference for domestic destinations as well as outdoor and “under-crowded” tourism attractions as main factors for destination choice. Similarly, Scuttari et al. [28] found two clusters, with one being more cautious, while members of the other cluster show less concern and move around freely. Lebrun et al. [26] found intentions of French people to travel closer to home in summer 2020 and showed generational differences. The influence of some sociodemographic variables is shown also by Peluso and Pichierri [17] who found that elderly with health issues have fewer intentions to take a post-pandemic vacation. O’Connor and Assaker [21] used a model to explain how COVID-19 influences future pro-environmental travel behavior and tested it on a US sample. Accordingly, COVID-19 increases both environmental concerns and environmental responsibility, and thus the crisis is likely to influence also future pro-environmental travel behavior.
Much research in this area is focusing on changes in mobility behavior [30,31,32] and more specifically travel mobility behavior. All studies analyzing behavioral change in daily mobility observe a shift away from public transportation, including flights. Therefore, the common conclusion is that traveling by plane might decrease in the long term. Shamshiripour et al. [19] found in a study done in Chicago (USA) that respondents anticipate shifting away from airplanes for leisure trips and going by car instead. For transportation, but also more generally, Park et al. [29] hypothesized that travelers may prefer less crowded travel and hospitality options and found supporting evidence in five empirical studies between May 2020 and March 2021 in the US context. Graham et al. [16] found that a high percentage of aging travelers in the UK intend to travel by air in the near future and assume a reinforcement of private vehicles that are used by that segment to get to and from the airport as this transport mode is deemed safer than public transport. In a report, CLIA [33] was optimistic that the cruise industry would gain momentum once again as a survey in December 2020 showed that two out of three cruisers were willing to cruise again within a year.
A further global COVID-19 effect, also reported by the UNWTO [34], was an increase in domestic tourism, substituting international travel. This leads to the question of whether this is a permanent or just an interim effect. Ram et al. [24] discussed the question of whether vaccination influences the share of domestic and international trips for Israeli travelers by a three-wave cross-sectional analysis between June 2020 and April 2021. They found little to no influence on future tourism demand even though they previously assumed vaccination to be relevant for resuming tourism. For mostly domestic visitors and tourists in Georgia (USA), Kane et al. [23] analyzed both drone and webcam imagery of a beach in Georgia during the summer of 2020 and found that despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, beachgoers still concentrated close to the shoreline and left 43% of the beach area unused, possibly ignoring physical distancing, and only few boardwalk-users were recorded with face masks.
Finally, in 2020, a further effect of the pandemic and related travel restrictions on travelers’ personal situation could be observed: many people just stayed at home instead of going on vacation. Even after lifting strict movement restrictions in the summer of 2020, they stayed at home during the main holiday season, changing their recreational behavior during and after the lockdown phases. Following the UNWTO tourism definition [35], they changed their role from being a tourist in a destination to being excursionists in their home region. Venter et al. [36] found an increased interest in urban green spaces after the outbreak of coronavirus and during lockdown phases by tracking Norwegian STRAVA-users. They showed lasting effects on how Norwegian citizens spend their free time and the role of domestic substitute sites for recreation, especially for teenagers and young adults. Derks et al. [37] supported these findings with data from Germany. They reported an increased visitation of forests during the first phase of the pandemic in March–April 2020. Grima et al. [38] found similar results for peri-urban forests and other urban natural areas and ecosystems in the USA. In a global analysis covering 48 countries and using the Google community mobility report, Geng et al. [39] could confirm these results. For most of the examined countries, the number of visitors in local and community parks, national parks, public beaches, marinas, dog parks, plazas, and public gardens increased significantly during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The above literature review showed a lack of results answering the question of whether the COVID-19 pandemic will have a long-term influence on travel behavior towards more sustainable tourism. We found several theory-based publications indicating that the transfer of results from other research fields to the phenomenon of a pandemic might not fit. The empirical studies we found describe behavioral change for specific groups of travelers, different types of destinations, or situations during a trip. Finally, looking at publications dealing with the behavioral change of the part of the population that decided to stay at home, we do not have evident results that link the behavioral change when doing excursions or day trips during the pandemic to future traveling. Nevertheless, the results allow for formulating hypotheses, e.g., that an increased contact to natural areas during the pandemic might stimulate a higher interest for natural areas as future travel destinations. However, so far, no empirical evidence exists that could be confidently used for future predictions.
Hence, this study addresses two research questions. First, we investigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on changes of consumers’ travel behavior, and second, in the case of COVID-19 induced changes, we investigate if we can find any indications for a long-term shift towards more sustainable travel behavior.

3. Methodology of the Empirical Study for the Six Countries

To answer the research questions, we analyzed accepted destination choice models [40] as conceptual framework. Such models distinguish two blocks of variables influencing the decision in the first phase of the destination choice process (see Figure 1): first, the product marketing variables, and second, the travelers’ variables. In concerning product marketing variables, we assume in this study that they did not change during the short first phase of the pandemic as the adaptation of the product as core element takes some time. Within the travelers’ variables, three blocks are described to be fundamental: first, the values of travelers [41]; second, the travel push factors and motivations [42], and third, socio-demography. Personal values of consumers are formed during childhood and youth, and remain very stable afterward. Thus, they change very slowly over time, similar to the values of whole societies. We assume that the pandemic does not change personal values per se but might change the importance given to the single values. The same slow alteration could be observed for travel push factors. An analysis of time series data of more than 30 years from Germany showed a very slow change of them. In the past other major disruptions, such as economic crises, the SARS virus, or terrorist attacks such as 9/11, did not lead to a significant change of personal travel push factors. The latest German travel analysis of 2021 also revealed no changes of travel motives caused by the pandemic [43]. We assume that the observed short-term steadiness of travel push factors even in the case of disruptions does not only exist in Germany but can also be found in other countries and is generally valid.
This way, the COVID-19 pandemic influences the destination choice process within the models in a threefold manner. Referring to the model of Woodside and Lysonski [41], first, we have a change in the destination choice sets. Some destinations moved either to the unavailable/aware set because of travel restrictions or to the inept set because of COVID-19-induced risks that a traveler is not willing to accept. Second, the pandemic potentially has an influence on the affections linked with a destination. Taking the four axes from the affective response grid described by Russell et al. [44], defined as pleasant–unpleasant, arousing–sleepy, exiting–gloomy, and distressing–relaxing, the pandemic situation can cause significant changes in the perception of a destination. Third, COVID-19 adds additional aspects to the situational variables for those consumers who intend to travel despite the pandemic. Short-term changes of regulations in the destination or test or quarantine obligations for returning travelers might influence the final choice. Finally, we can take a look at values and travel push factors of travelers related to sustainability and discuss if new travel experiences made in alternative destinations because of COVID-19 might have the potential for a long-term behavioral change. Figure 1 shows the conceptual research framework of this study.
Based on social values and travel push factors that are assumed not to have changed because of the pandemic, we analyzed three groups of travelers who all reported at least one main holiday trip for 2019 and (a) did not travel in 2020, (b) traveled in 2020 to their usual destination, or (c) traveled in 2020 to a different destination because of the pandemic. By comparing the three groups, we will discuss the potential for behavioral change through new travel experiences in light of values and travel push factors. The focus will be on comparing the group of travelers who had a vacation in 2019 and 2020 but at different destinations with those who chose the usual destination despite the pandemic. For those travelers who changed the destination, we will look along the destination choice model at indications for a shift towards sustainable tourism in the future. A further focus of the study was a comparison of COVID-19 effects among five different European countries and the USA. Each country had imposed other pandemic-specific travel bans and regulations which might have caused a further country-specific behavioral effect.
The research questions presented in this paper were part of a larger study about sustainability and sustainable tourism that was done in six countries, namely Germany (272 participants), Switzerland (254 participants), Italy (252 participants), Norway (254 participants), Finland (253 participants), and the United States of America with 500 participants. These countries were selected to cover economically, topographically, and climatically different countries resulting in different cultural identities. Hudson and Ritchie [45] found significant differences in tourists’ attitudes towards the environment between travelers from Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Bausch et al. [46] confirmed cross-cultural differences in the understanding of sustainable tourism for travelers from Germany and Italy. Therefore, Italy was included in the sample as Mediterranean, Switzerland as Alpine country, and Germany as a country located in Central Europe. To investigate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on Nordic countries that have a huge potential for lonesome outdoor holiday trips, Finland and Norway were added to the sample. Norway is a Scandinavian country with a long-lasting debate about sustainable development away from a North Sea oil-driven economy and Finland has a long coastline at the Baltic Sea. Finally, to cover the cross-cultural differences found by Hudson and Ritchie, we added the United States as a sixth country. Study participants had to be active travelers, having made at least one yearly holiday trip with a minimum duration of four days during the last few years, and they also were required to have made at least one holiday trip in 2019. Sampling was done by a quota method using sociodemographic data, including gender, age, education level, household size, kids in household, residence (living in rural or metropolitan area), employment status, income, and zip code for regional distribution. For the US, in addition, ethnicity was included. Quotas were based on the latest statistics from the census of the National Statistical Offices to create approximatively representative samples for each of the six countries.
The questionnaire was first developed in German and then translated into Italian, English, Finnish, and Norwegian by native-language colleagues and market researchers. The study was conducted by online panels from Norstat (see, last accessed 28 January 2022), a company that specializes in panel data collection. A pre-test of the study was run in May 2021 in Germany and Switzerland. After minor text-based revisions, the fieldwork was completed in all six countries within the second week of June. The surveys in each country were closed as soon as the required number of participants was reached (250 participants for the European countries and 500 participants for the USA). The questionnaire mainly consisted of closed questions supplemented by a few open-ended questions. The answers from the open-ended questions were translated to English so that analyses could be carried out by the research team. Table 2 shows the sociodemographic structure of the final sample.
The survey covered the components of the destination choice along the described model from Figure 1 in seven sections. Three sections covered the traveler variables in the destination choice model: socio-demography (including age, gender, and income), travel push factors and motivations, as well as the personal values of travelers. The list of travel push factors/travel motivations of the participants’ last holiday was created by combining similar and frequently used factors and motivations from Manfredo et al. [47], Chul Oh et al. [48], Loker and Perdue [49], the German travel analysis [50], and Moscardo et al. [51]. The final list consisted of 23 items, each consisting of a title and a short description. To measure the personal values, the shortened version of the “Portrait Values Questionnaire” proposed by Schwartz [52] was used. This social value scale consists of 21 items and is a widely accepted method to measure values across nations. Participants had to rate the similarity of themselves to short descriptions of persons. This scale was chosen as its reliability and effectiveness have been proven in countless studies spanning multiple nations all over the world. The fourth section investigated if people went on a holiday trip in 2020 and, if not, what reasons led to the decision not to travel. The fifth section was only aimed at holidaymakers in 2020 and asked if they changed their original holiday plan in response to the pandemic. These two sections covered the changes in the destination choice sets. The sixth section was again directed to all participants and consisted of 15 statements that assessed how the pandemic had affected their travel decision. These statements were developed by the authors based on the literature review and addressed a variety of topics including accessibility of destinations, accommodation choice, travel mode, and COVID-19-related affective associations. Participants could mention further impacts in an open textbox. The seventh section studied criteria for the selection of an alternative destination. Again, the authors provided some literature review-based statements and participants were allowed to add their own important criteria that were then included in the analyses. These two final sections covered the COVID-19-related situational variables in the destination choice model. Furthermore, as an outlook to a long-term change of destination choice, one question explored a possible impact of the 2020 holiday on future travel behavior. Here, participants were free to share any trip experiences that may influence future travel decisions. We used SPSS 27 to analyze the survey data. Through factor analysis, we checked the internal consistency of data. As most of the sections of our survey used existing and well-tested items and scales, the internal consistency of the data was good.

4. Results

4.1. To Travel or Not in the First Pandemic Year of 2020

Out of the 1,785 participants, only 39% traveled in the year of 2020. The reason for the 61% who did not travel was almost exclusively (96%) the coronavirus pandemic. Other reasons could be named in an open text field and included the financial situation of the participant, health issues or a pregnancy, work or time issues, canceled events, or the weather. First, we analyzed the role of socio-demography on the decision not to travel or, in the case of traveling, to choose the same or a different destination using crosstabs and a Pearson chi-squared test. For the variables age group, education level, income group, and children in household, we did not find any significant differences among the three groups. Gender, on the other hand, showed a high influence (significance of <0.001) on travel decision (men 57.9%/women 63.4% not traveling in 2020) and destination choice. Within the group of travelers, we observed a much higher share of men (20.4%) than women (13.6%) who traveled to different holiday destinations in 2020. In the in-country comparison, in particular, a high share of Fins reported not traveling in 2020. The differences in the proportion of non-travelers in the six countries are shown in Table 3. The general travel decision taken in 2020 was significantly different at level 0.006 among the six countries (Pearson chi-squared test).
To find out more about how the pandemic affected the travel decision, being either to not travel or to choose a different destination, a multiple-choice question with fifteen statements representing potential implications of the coronavirus pandemic on the holiday was added to the questionnaire. The statements included topics important for decision making, such as possible travel restrictions (e.g., destination was a hotspot or not accessible, and travel requirements), perceived infection risk during transportation or at the accommodation, work issues and financial aspects (e.g., no holiday days left, could not go on vacation, reduction of disposable income due to pandemic, and lost money due to canceled trips), family or travel partner (e.g., visit family instead of holidays), or an uneasy feeling of traveling during a pandemic.
The main reasons to change the destination or to stay at home were of an affective nature. In the group of non-travelers, 49.7% of participants stated that traveling as usual made them feel uncomfortable and 42.4% reported it was too complicated to travel abroad or their preferred destination was not accessible. Every fifth participant (22.2%) wanted to stay close to home in case infection numbers rose. In the group of people who traveled despite the pandemic, 30% reported that they felt more uncomfortable to travel than usual. This value is significantly lower than in the non-travelers group. Table 4 shows the list of pandemic effects and their importance for the decision not to travel or to choose a different destination than they would without the pandemic.
By taking a more detailed look at the five most frequent reasons for not traveling in 2020 by countries, specific profiles become visible (see Table 5 rows NT). More than half of the non-travelers from the two North European countries reported problems with traveling in general. Two of three Norwegians, in addition, felt uncomfortable to travel. About half of German and Swiss non-travelers could not travel to their originally planned destination while this problem was minor for non-traveling Italians and US citizens. In the group of those who traveled to a different destination in 2020 than in 2019 (rows TDD), 50% of the surveyed Fins reported that their originally intended destinations were not accessible, a problem which occurred only to less than a quarter of the US participants. Even though they traveled, about half of the Norwegians felt either uncomfortable to travel or reported that it was complicated or impossible to travel abroad. Germans and US citizens who chose a different destination showed generally low percentages for all five effects on the travel decision. Table 5 shows the results of the detailed analysis.

4.2. Destination Choice in 2020

Of the 701 participants who traveled in 2020 (DE: 117, IT: 120, CH: 100, FIN: 72, NOR: 108, and USA: 184), 43.3% (i.e., 17% of the whole sample) stated to have chosen a different destination to their originally planned destination for their holidays in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. From those who changed their usual destination in 2020, we found that 38% of participants who had traveled abroad in 2019 chose a domestic holiday destination in 2020. In total, 29% traveled domestically in both years but changed the destination within their home country. Another 23% traveled abroad in both years but changed their destination in 2020. Cases where people traveled domestically in 2019 but abroad in 2020 were rare (5%). In addition, only 5% varied their destination within the same foreign country. Table 6 shows the comparison between 2019 and 2020 destination choices. The reported destinations were classified as domestic, Europe (i.e., destination in the European continent), and non-Europe (destination outside of the European continent) so that it was possible to uncover a change in the pre-COVID-19 2019 destination choice and destination choice in 2020.
In all six countries, the change of destination due to coronavirus led to a higher share of domestic travel destinations and a decrease of both European (with the exception of the Swiss) and non-European destinations. Interestingly, despite many countries having COVID-19 safety measures in place during the summer of 2020 (e.g., border restrictions, quarantine obligations, or social distancing measures), the observed share of international travel was still relatively high.
Participants who decided on a holiday destination other than the usual were additionally asked about the relevant criteria for choosing this alternative destination. Table 7 lists the results by country. “Accessibility by car/individual means of transportation” was found most important (50.3%), followed by the “possibility to stay or move around in nature with distance to other people” (34.2%). Similar aspects were “not crowded, lonely places” (32.6%) and “small accommodation units with no or few other people” (24.3%). Surprisingly low was the importance of low infection rates at the destination (22.7%) or professional hygienic concepts at the accommodation (16.1%). Looking at country differences, we see in some instances remarkable contrasts, such as in the aspect of possibilities for staying in nature (CH 47.5% vs. USA 24.1%), not crowded/lonely places (FIN 45.5% vs. NOR 17.4%), or low infection rates (FIN 48.5% vs. USA 15.7%).

4.3. Potential Influence of 2020 Holiday Trip on Future Traveling

We confronted all participants who traveled in 2020 with the question “Supposing the pandemic ends, and you have all options for traveling as in the past: will the holiday experiences of 2020 influence your future traveling?” A total of 42% agreed, with only 35% of those who visited their usual destination in 2020 expecting an impact on future travel. Of those who did not go to the usual destination, 52% think that the 2020 trip will influence future traveling. A comparison between countries showed that Norwegians claim fewer future influence while every second Swiss and American say they will remember the experiences of 2020 also in the future. A chi-squared test for the 2 × 2 crosstab (see Table 8) “same/different destination x influence future traveling yes x no” is significant at a level below 0.001.
All participants who agreed that the experiences made in 2020 will influence their future travel decisions (n = 297) were asked to provide commentary on up to three things they will change/will remember when planning future holiday events. In total, 169 participants provided useful descriptions of how their behavior might change in the future.
The most frequently mentioned expected effect of the 2020 destination experiences at a different than usual destination was an increased preference for domestic or nearby destinations. Some participants reported that they discovered the beauty/convenience of the home country and wished to repeat such vacation trips. This could be observed for all countries but most frequently for Norway and Finland:
Participant 24 (Norway): “Norwegian nature: Consider seeing more of your own country”.
Participant 1075 (Germany): “Germany trip: will travel more locally” and “nature: Germany has great forests worth visiting”
For many participants, the experiences in 2020 reinforced the desire to travel again also internationally and they want to discover new places as well as make new travel experiences. Even though they did not explicitly report that the 2020 trip was unsatisfying, the wish for an end or at least a reduction of Corona-related restrictions and new travel experiences was obvious:
Participant 296 (Italy): “Travel abroad: I want to travel abroad again”.
Participant 439 (USA): “Masks on planes: Hopefully masks will become a thing of the past”.
However, many will proceed with safety measures, continue wearing a mask and social distancing, and generally be more careful out of fear of COVID-19:
Participant 2070 (USA): “Will bring hand sanitizer wherever I go”.
Participant 748 (USA): “Traveling by plane: I’ll take extra precautions to maintain my distance from others”.
Additionally, mobility related changes might be seen in the future, including: avoiding air travel, using the own car for leisure purposes, and being careful in public transport was mentioned by participants as an impact on future travels:
Participant 172 (Switzerland): “Shorter travel distances: no plane travel”.
Participant 281 (Finland): “Mode of travel: Going on vacation with own car”.
The wish to avoid crowds increased due to the virus and was named as a possible long-term impact for future holiday planning. To avoid crowds, coping strategies such as changing the travel time or a preference for a nature destination were mentioned:
Participant 452 (Finland): “Crowding in services: I want to travel outside the season times”.
Participant 348 (Italy): “Contact with nature: will prefer mountains”.
The experiences in 2020 might also lead to more time being invested in the planning of trips and to a better studying of refund and cancellation policies before booking:
Participant 53 (Norway): “Plan carefully: Plan more carefully in the future”.
Participant 209 (Switzerland): “Buying tickets with refund option: not losing the money”.
Remarks about future differences in accommodation choice were also made by some participants:
Participant 365 (USA): “Staying at Airbnb: will stay here instead of hotel”.
Participant 256 (Italy): “At sea: I want a house for myself”.
Table 9 shows a ranking of the potential impacts reported by the participants based on a frequency analysis of the related codes in our analysis.

4.4. Travel Push Factors and Travel Behavior in 2020

To analyze how motivations to travel influenced the destination choice during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, we used a list of 23 travel push factors measured on a six-point Likert scale (1 = very important…6 = not important at all). By comparing the travel push factors among the three groups (no trip in 2020, usual destination in 2019 and 2020, and different destination in 2020), stronger differences between the averages of the two traveling groups can be seen. The non-traveling group mostly shows an average value in between the other two groups. For 12 travel push factors, we found significant differences at a significance level of 0.05, and for another two at 0.1 using a one-way ANOVA.
The most significant differences were found for factors linked to having active new experiences when traveling, which requires moving around and having contact with people. Additionally, nature as a push factor (“being close to nature, enjoying pristine nature, view beautiful scenery, observing and studying nature “) showed significant differences among the groups. However, in this case, the two traveling groups have almost identical average values while the non-traveler group shows lower agreement to the statement. Concerning more passive relaxing and recreational travel push factors, which are linked to remaining at the same place and being in contact with one’s own social groups, no significant differences were found. Table 10 gives an overview of the three groups’ means of travel push factors sorted by significance of the ANOVA.

4.5. Social Values and Travel Behavior in 2020

At the beginning of the pandemic, the most effective instrument to reduce the number of new infections was social distancing. Accepting social distancing and showing solidarity for risk groups are closely linked to social values. Therefore, the social values of the study participants were measured using Schwartz’s social value scale [52] consisting of 21 statements describing the social-behavioral characteristics of a hypothetical person. The study participants had to decide on a six-point Likert scale to determine how similar a described person is to themselves. For seven out of the 21 variables, a group comparison of the average showed significant differences at a significance level of 0.05, which is one more at 0.1 using a one-way ANOVA. Again, the average values of the group of non-travelers are in between those of the group of people who had a holiday trip at a different destination and those who chose the usual destination. People going to different destinations agreed to a higher extent to statements describing a hedonistic person that is strongly focused on their personal success and happiness, but also on recognition and acceptance by others. Statements that are linked to the social and ecological dimension of sustainability did not show significant differences among the groups. Table 11 shows the group comparison for the social values.

5. Discussion

The COVID-19 pandemic led many people to change their usual travel behavior in 2020. Our research investigated if this change might have a long-term impact on future travel behavior and, more specifically, if it leads to a more sustainable travel behavior in the future. Based on the results of an online survey, which ran in six countries during the spring of 2021, we compared three groups: (1) no traveling in 2020, (2) traveling but to a different than usual destination, and (3) traveling to the usual destination. A look at sociodemographic variables revealed gender differences in travel decisions and destination choice due to the coronavirus pandemic. Much more women tended not to travel as well as a lower share of traveling women chose a different destination than men. This can be interpreted as a higher risk perception by and risk aversion of women in the six countries and this is in line with the findings of a comprehensive literature review of risk and gender research by Yang et al. [53] for western-world countries. Thus, this is not a new phenomenon caused by COVID-19. Surprisingly, age group was not a significant factor since other studies reported differences in risk perception between young and old people [54]. As our study did not include participants older than 65, this may just indicate that risk perception and risk aversion in the context of traveling are similar for people below 66.
As main reasons not to travel in 2020, two main factors were found. First, psychological effects of perceived risks caused by the pandemic, such as feeling uncomfortable to travel or the risk of infection, prevented many people from traveling. Second, the travel restrictions played an important role. In all six countries, the government imposed travel restrictions in mid-March 2020 and, in some cases, public life was shut down completely for several weeks. As a result of worldwide travel bans, many people canceled already booked trips later in the year [55] to prevent a potential monetary loss in case of ongoing restrictions. Many European countries gradually withdrew the imposed restrictions starting from the end of May 2020 but some European top destinations, e.g., Spain, had restrictions in place for much longer. People were simply blocked from travel and the hesitant gradual reopening combined with widespread uncertainty caused many people to stay at home.
By comparing the studied countries, significant differences could be spotted. We found that the pandemic led to a higher share of domestic destinations among travelers but for different reasons. First, we must consider that the six countries have very different shares of domestic and outbound tourism. The share of pre-pandemic outbound holiday trips is relatively high in Germany and Switzerland (2019: DE 74% [56] and CH 77% [57]). The travel bans described above and the classification of many destinations as high-risk countries (e.g., France, Spain, and Turkey), which lasted until mid-June, hindered people from visiting them. Hence, a domestic holiday trip was the only alternative. Contrarily, Americans have a much higher share of domestic tourism. As traveling within the US borders was either never forbidden or mostly allowed starting mid-May, the shift towards more domestic holiday trips received a further push by the pandemic.
Travelers found accessibility by car/individual means of transportation as an important aspect for the destination selection in 2020. This preference of the car as a transport mode was also shown by Eisenmann et al. [58] who investigated impacts of the pandemic and lockdowns on both mobility patterns and the transport mode-use in Germany: during the lockdown period, the car became the most important transport mode, while the usage of public transport decreased as it was perceived less safe than before.
In terms of sustainability, we also see two effects. On the one hand, a large part of the population did not travel at all, and on the other hand, the rest of the population selected nearby destinations reachable without plane travel, thus increasing the level of sustainability in the travel market. However, looking at a time series of average daily commercial flights (see Figure 1), a strong recovery of plane travel can be observed. In Figure 2, we can see the pandemic effect starting in February 2020, the lockdown phase in March and April in many countries, and the stepwise recovery from May 2020 and onwards. Still, in 2021, the number of flights was well-below the rates of 2019, but this is due to the fact that in the summer of 2021, some destinations were still not available. Therefore, the short-term changes in attitudes and behaviors of either not to travel or drive instead of flying cannot be understood as a permanent shift of behavior towards sustainability. According to the current state of knowledge, it seems much more likely to be just a short-term adaptation of travel behaviors to pandemic conditions without a long-term turn towards sustainable habits.
Our study endeavored to take a look at the future and investigated possible changes in future behavior that the pandemic might trigger in travelers. Due to a vacation in the home country that many experienced due to the presence of coronavirus restrictions or quarantine obligations, some discovered the advantages of a domestic vacation, lonely destinations, and distance to other travelers, and thus increasing a more sustainable behavior. This preference was also shown by Wang and Ackermann [59]. Our results are in line with Corbisiero and Monaco [60] who reported a strong resilience of Italian tourism in the short-term and showed an increased interest in mountain areas, the countryside, or natural parks as destinations. Thus, the desire to have more experiences in nature and the outdoors grew due to the coronavirus experience in 2020. Participants additionally claimed that they will choose closer destinations in the future and foresee increased personal safety measures as well as an increased share of the car as a transport mode. However, from a quantitative perspective, the “promised” effects are small. In our sample, only 17% selected a different destination in 2020 than in 2019. Out of them, about 9.5% mentioned a wish for selecting more nature-based destinations in the future, which is less than 2% of our whole sample. Therefore, we could not find a boosting effect of the pandemic pushing people towards sustainable nature-based tourism.
When comparing the travel push factors of non-travelers, travelers with no change of destination in 2020, and those who chose a different one, we saw in the first line significant disparities for experience and activity-related factors. A first assumption is that this might be an effect of the observations we made for gender for the different groups. In the group of travelers who chose a different destination in 2020, we found significantly more men than women. Doing a further in the deep analysis of travel push factors using a MANOVA for the variables gender and the 2019–2020 travel behavior (three groups of Table 10), we found that out of the fifteen travel push factors with significant differences among the three groups, there are only four that also show significant differences between men and women. The first seven push factors with the most significant differences in the mean values are not gender-related. Thus, the group of people that, despite the pandemic, traveled to different destinations in 2020 is looking for new experiences of any type. Nature is an important but not group-related feature or even a dominant factor. All people who traveled in 2020, independent from the selection of the destination (usual or different), have a higher interest in “being close to nature, enjoying pristine nature, view beautiful scenery, observing and studying nature”. Thus, we cannot link increased nature preference to the pandemic and therefore we see no indication for a COVID-19-induced boost of the nature-oriented travel push factor.
This missing link is also confirmed through the analysis of the social values. The group of people who traveled despite the pandemic and chose a different destination tends to take risks more often in order to live an exciting life. The opposite behavior is shown by the group that traveled but chose the usual destination. This behavior was already described by Plog [61] in his psychographic personality types of travelers, ranging from allocentric-oriented venturers/near venturers who want to make new experiences to the psychocentric-oriented dependables/near dependables who look more for familiarity and a safe environment. These are general characteristics of people and we see no evidence as to why venturers could have a higher affinity for more sustainable behavior.

6. Conclusions

Our literature review revealed numerous papers published at the beginning of the pandemic. Many of them expressed hypothetical scenarios and potential benefits of the pandemic, possibly being a trigger for a transformation of the tourism sector towards a more sustainable industry. However, these papers were not based on empirical studies. Moreover, they argued from a theoretical perspective on how the crisis could be a starting point for a greening of the tourism sector. These notional contributions mirror, to a certain extent, a wishful thinking of academics on how to improve an obviously unsustainable part of the global economy. However, such a transformation needs a change of the tourism markets, i.e., an adaptation of both the demand and supply side. Bausch et al. [62] expressed doubts that the pandemic will change the tourism system. They argued that the pandemic leads to disruptions and simply reroutes the flows in the system but will not lead to a change of the system itself. Especially on the supply side, they did not see any reasons why the pandemic should lead to a change in the system. Tourism suppliers having made billions over billions of investments in the past and still need the flow from the demand to the supply side, i.e., the flow of the money brought by the guests, to continue their businesses and keep investments worthwhile. With this study, we add a further piece of research by taking a closer look at the demand side.
Based on an online survey in six countries, we compared three groups: people that stayed at home in 2020 (non-travelers), people who chose a different destination than in 2019 because of the pandemic, and those who traveled to their usual destination. Based on seven aspects, i.e., demographics, observed destination change for 2019 vs. 2020, effects of the pandemic on traveling, criteria when selecting a different destination, potential influence of a 2020 vacation trip on future traveling, travel push factors, and social values, we could not find any evident signals for a possible impact of the pandemic towards more sustainable traveling and therefore no increased demand for sustainable options in the future. We only saw two main influencing factors that led to a short-term behavioral change. Travel bans and travel restrictions are the primary factors for changing the volume and flow of travelers in the system. A large part of the participants simply stayed at home, which reduced the flow in the tourism system, while a second part chose a different destination than in 2019. This change happened mainly because of regulative constraints and not by free will. The second factor was linked to travel behavior that had been adapted to the pandemic to reduce infection risk or avoid infection. This was a personal decision to protect oneself and the family from a potentially deadly virus but was not connected to a conscious behavioral change towards sustainable traveling or, even more generally, a sustainable lifestyle.
Therefore, the potential to create a long-term sustainability boost effect lies primarily in a forced change of behavior by policies and regulations, resulting in new and different travel experiences. We discovered a greater interest in new experiences and activities among the group of 2020 travelers who chose a different destination than in 2019. Furthermore, the willingness to accept risks linked with new experiences was significantly higher in this group. Thus, this group was not willing to give up traveling and the related experiences despite an ongoing pandemic. The travel behavior itself as an outcome of travel push factors and social values did not change fundamentally; it only took place at a different destination offering other experience options. In this group, we saw the highest level of agreement to the Schwartz social value characteristic “He looks for adventures and likes to take risks. He wants to have an exciting life”. The forced change of the destination was a kind of adventure fitting well into the personal travel profile. However, as soon as the pandemic ends, this type of traveler will look for new, different adventures. Hence, we do not see any evidence for a permanent shift towards sustainable behavior in this group.
Finally, we have the large group of people who did not travel in 2020. We are not able to predict if the one-year suspension of traveling in combination with close-to-home activities or staycations that substituted the main holiday will increase sustainable traveling in the future. However, we also could not identify any travel push factors or social values which might allow for formulating a reasonable hypothesis in that direction. Rather, it was quite the contrary: the mean values we measured in the early spring of 2021 for the travel push factor “being close to nature, enjoying pristine nature, view beautiful scenery, observing and studying nature” was significantly lower than for the two traveling groups. Thus, doubts that the travel break might really cause a behavioral change towards sustainability are justified.
At the beginning of the pandemic, many scholars suggested to take the concomitant disruption of the travel flow as an opportunity to think about recovery strategies, which also contribute to the greening of the tourism sector. As the pre-pandemic tourism system was far away from being sustainable, regarding both the ecological and socio-cultural pillar of the three-bottom line approach, this would imply strategies that also aim towards a behavioral change of travelers worldwide. Our results do not indicate such an extensive long-term behavioral change caused by the pandemic from the demand side. Thus, the pandemic most likely will not permanently reroute the travel flow in the tourism system towards a more sustainable destination choice and consumer behavior, as was assumed or hoped by many researchers. Looking at the main components of the destination choice models that we used as conceptual framework for our research (see Figure 1), our results suggest that after a hypothetical end of the pandemic, consumers will go back to their pre-COVID-19 travel behavior. Destinations that moved from the consideration set to the unavailable aware or inept set will move back.
However, if travelers do not initiate a shift towards sustainable tourism, the question is if the suppliers could and should take the pandemic as an impulse for a substantial change. Although, after two years of COVID-19-induced business decline, most suppliers such as airlines, hotel chains, cruise operators, leisure parks, or casinos are under heavy financial pressure. Therefore, most of them first must recover by improving the capacity utilization of existing resources, not emphasizing a sustainable redirection of their business model. We can neither see reasons nor possibilities why and how large international mass-market suppliers and destinations should change their business models as long as the demand side still desires the same and, in former times, profitable products.
Yet, the challenge for the supply side remains the same: how to raise the chances to be selected as a destination by consumers in their final steps of destination choice? Product marketing variables will continue to be key elements and sustainability might be the factor that separates winners from losers. The challenge will be to offer a better, sustainable product that is also more competitive. This means products cannot be “just sustainable”, they must be even more competitive because they are sustainable. From the demand side perspective, sustainable travel products must increase customer value by better meeting travelers’ expectations. Even if travelers’ interest in sustainable travel products does not increase because of the pandemic, competitiveness is the main reason why sustainable production should become a strategic priority for suppliers. The early integration of sustainability principles into long-term destinations or company development will generate a competitive advantage on two fronts. First, simply because the product is the more competitive one, and second, the role of sustainability as a cognitive destination choice criterion might gain importance or generate positive affective associations of consumers during the final phase of destination choice in the future.

7. Limitations

The present study yields intriguing results but is not without limitations. The study was carried out as an online survey excluding certain age groups (under 18 and above 65+). This was inevitable as online panels are not allowed to interview minors without the agreement of parents because of youth protection and they are also not able to guarantee a reliable representative share of elderly that participate in such online questionnaires. Moreover, an incentivized panel via a commercial market research company was used to achieve a higher number of participants, which might lead to some fake survey responses. A further constraint of our research is a result of the pandemic itself regarding the influence of non-traveling in 2020 on future travel behavior. This needs further research in the next years and therefore, in our study, this is an unanswered question. There might be effects as 2020 non-travelers possibly substituted their main holiday with short-trips or staycations. However, based on our data, only hypotheses can be made in this regard.

Author Contributions

Conceptualization, T.B.; methodology, T.B.; formal analysis, T.B. and V.T.; writing—original draft preparation, T.B. and V.T.; writing—review and editing, T.B. and V.T.; visualization, T.B. and V.T. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.


This work was supported by the Open Access Publishing Fund of the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano.

Institutional Review Board Statement

Not applicable.

Informed Consent Statement

Informed consent was obtained from all subjects involved in the study.

Data Availability Statement

The data presented in this study are available upon request from the corresponding author. The data are not publicly available due to internal budget regulations of the Competence Centre Tourism and Mobility.


The authors thank Nora Estgfäller for her useful remarks on previous versions and for proofreading the manuscript.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Figure 1. Conceptual framework based on destination choice model of Woodside and Lysonski [41].
Figure 1. Conceptual framework based on destination choice model of Woodside and Lysonski [41].
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Figure 2. Number of average daily commercial flights during 2019–2021 (December 2021 estimation based on data until the 23rd of December).
Figure 2. Number of average daily commercial flights during 2019–2021 (December 2021 estimation based on data until the 23rd of December).
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Table 1. Publications discussing travelers’ behavioral change because of COVID-19.
Table 1. Publications discussing travelers’ behavioral change because of COVID-19.
AuthorsFocus of the PublicationTypeDate
Galvani et al. [3]Potential impact related to sustainable tourismE20 February
Cohen [4]Onset of sustainable consumption transitionE20 March
Romagosa [5]Potential impact on economyE20 April
Benjamin et al. [6]Tourism equity in the post-pandemic ageE20 April
Crossley [7]Desire for environmental healing in tourismE20 April
Ioannides and Gymóthy [8]Opportunity for changeE20 April
Hall et al. [9]Pandemics, transformations, and tourismTRP/E20 April
Mackenzie and Goodnow [10]Before, during, and after-pandemic adventure tourismE20 April
Goffman [11]Glocalization as a sustainability futureE20 April
Wen et al. [12]Potential effects on Chinese citizens’ lifestyle and travelE/ERP20 May
Stankov et al. [13]Potential consequences for tourism industryE20 May
Zwanka and Buff [14]Conceptual framework of the consumer’s behavioral shiftsE/TRP20 May
de Hass et al. [15]Dutch ‘intelligent lockdown’ change activities, work, and travel behaviorERP20 July
Graham et al. [16]Attitudes of aging passengers to air travel ERP20 July
Peluso and Pichierri [17]Socio-demographics, sense of control, and uncertainty avoidance– effects on vacation intentionERP20 November
Matiza [18]Linking risk and post-crisis tourism with COVID-19TRP20 September
Shamshiripour et al. [19]Reshaping of activity/travel behavior before, during, and after the pandemicERP20 September
Pardo and Ladeiras [20]Reflection by tourism agents of pandemic and future ERP20 December
O’Connor and Assaker [21]Effects on future pro-environmental traveler behaviorERP/TRP21 January
Miao et al. [22]Post-COVID-19 travel behaviorTRP21 May
Kane et al. [23]Behavioral change of social distancing at the beachERP21 May
Ram et al. [24]Vaccination effect on share of domestic/international travelingERP21 July
Van Wee and Witlox [25]Possible long-term effects of COVID-19 on activity/travel behaviorTRP21 July
Lebrun et al. [26]Travel intention of French consumers for summer 2020 ERP21 July
Del Chiappa et al. [27]Uncovering knowledge on travel behavior during COVID-19ERP21 August
Scuttari et al. [28]Clusters of COVID-19-driven travel behaviorERP21 October
Park et al. [29]Travelers’ preference for crowded vs. non-crowded optionsERP21 December
E = essay, ERP = empirical research paper, and TRP = theoretical research paper.
Table 2. Sociodemographic structure of final sample.
Table 2. Sociodemographic structure of final sample.
CountryN Gender%
Germany272 male47.7
Italy252 female51.0
Switzerland254 diverse1.30
Norway254 Age group%
USA500 18–2925.0
Current economic activity% 45–6545.3
employed/public servant59.4 Household size%
currently not employed12.0 1 person30.4
retired or pensioner10.1 2 persons33.3
student/in education8.3 3 or more persons36.4
College/University degree% Children in household%
yes44.9 yes22.4
no55.1 no77.6
Household pre-tax income %
below EUR 2000/CHF 3000/USD 3000/NOK 25,00027.3
up to EUR 4000/CHF 6000 /USD 6000/NOK 40,00036.6
above EUR 4000/CHF 6000/USD 6000/NOK 40,00036.1
Table 3. Differences of travel behavior in the year of 2020 among the six analyzed countries.
Table 3. Differences of travel behavior in the year of 2020 among the six analyzed countries.
Country (participants)No Holiday Trip in 2020 (%)No Holiday Trip Because of the Coronavirus Pandemic (%)Different Holiday Trip/Destination in 2020 (%)Usual Holiday Trip/Destination in 2020 (%)
DE (272)
IT (252)52.493.920.627.0
CH (254)60.692.915.723.6
FIN (253)71.596.113.015.4
NOR (254)57.597.318.124.4
USA (500)
ALL (1785)60.795.617.022.2
Table 4. Effects of pandemic on travel decision.
Table 4. Effects of pandemic on travel decision.
No Holiday Trip in 2020 (%)Different Holiday Trip/Destination in 2020 (%)Significance
In general, I felt uncomfortable to travel as usual because of the pandemic49.730.30.000
In my country, it was not possible/very complicated to travel abroad42.431.90.100
My originally intended destination was not accessible because of the pandemic37.336.20.733
I wanted to stay close to home in case infection numbers rose and restrictions were imposed27.417.40.000
To reach my preferred destination, I would have needed to take a plane/train, which seemed too much of a risk to me because of a possible infection15.617.80.376
I was afraid about a potential loss of my money when booking a trip which could have eventually been cancelled13.811.20.628
My originally intended destination was a hotspot of the pandemic13.714.80.236
Usually, I travel with friends or my family, but traveling as a group was not appropriate because of the pandemic10.87.90.139
Because of the pandemic, I had to expect a significant reduction of my income and could not afford to travel9.75.30.170
Usually, I stay in a nice hotel/resort/on a cruise ship together with many other guests but because of the virus, this seemed too much of a risk to me6.96.30.712
Instead of making a holiday I chose to visit my family because I could not do that during lockdown5.35.30.975
I could not take off work because of the pandemic (e.g., health care workers and worker in gastronomy)
Relatives/friends or I personally had an infection with the virus and could therefore not travel as planned2.44.30.850
Table 5. Effects of pandemic: top five reasons by country and non-travelers (NT)/travelers with different destination (TDD).
Table 5. Effects of pandemic: top five reasons by country and non-travelers (NT)/travelers with different destination (TDD).
Share of non-travelers (NT)NT57.052.460.671.557.563.20.006
Share of travelers with different destination (TDD)TDD18.420.615.713.018.116.6
In general, I felt uncomfortable to travel as usual because of the pandemicNT45.642.739.946.068.352.60.000
In my country, it was not possible/very complicated to travel abroadNT38.337.135.751.757.037.50.000
My originally intended destination was not accessible because of the pandemicNT47.026.650.337.438.729.90.000
I wanted to stay close to home in case infection numbers rose and restrictions were imposedNT19.518.524.537.931.028.60.001
To reach my preferred destination, I would have needed to take a plane/train, which seemed too much of a risk to me because of a possible infectionNT20.115.315.410.323.213.20.018
Table 6. Destination choice in 2020 compared to the pre-COVID-19 year of 2019.
Table 6. Destination choice in 2020 compared to the pre-COVID-19 year of 2019.
Diff 2020
Diff 2020
DE (51) CH (40)
IT (52) FIN (52)
NOR (46) USA (79)
Table 7. Criteria for selection of a different destination for 2020 holiday (in %).
Table 7. Criteria for selection of a different destination for 2020 holiday (in %).
Criteria for Selecting a Different DestinationDEITCHFINNORUSAALL
Accessible by car/individual means of transportation52.050.042.554.560.945.850.3
Possibility to stay/move around in nature with a distance to other people30.034.647.536.432.624.134.2
Not crowded, lonely places32.034.635.045.517.439.832.6
Small accommodation units with no other/few people32.026.925.030.315.220.524.3
Low infection rates in the destination26.017.320.048.521.715.722.7
Possibility to prepare/getting served meals in room/apartment/place I stayed at16.025.017.530.310.912.017.4
Professional hygienic concepts in my accommodation26.017.315.09.117.412.016.1
Special rates/reasonable prices12.
Option for late cancellation with full refund16.021.212.515.28.713.314.5
To escape to a place where I felt safe and free from the daily coronavirus threats8.09.612.
Possibility to practice my preferred activities despite the pandemic16.09.67.515.213.010.811.8
Good standard medical care at or nearby my destination12.09.617.512.110.98.411.2
Visitor management at attractions to avoid crowding/waiting in lines8.
Other (please specify)
Spacious campgrounds/caravan park2.
Table 8. Influence of 2020 holiday experiences on future traveling (in %).
Table 8. Influence of 2020 holiday experiences on future traveling (in %).
Holiday Experiences of 2020 Will Influence Future Traveling YES in %DEITCHFINNORUSAALL
Different than usual holiday destination in 202054.050.067.542.437.056.652.0
Usual holiday destination in 202026.939.740.035.919.443.635.0
Table 9. Impact of experiences made in 2020 on future travel behavior (in %).
Table 9. Impact of experiences made in 2020 on future travel behavior (in %).
Frequently Mentioned Potential Changes of Future Traveling by Experiences Made in 2020 (%)
Destination choice29.6Decreased crowding acceptance15.4
Desire to travel again21.3Nature/outdoor preference9.5
Safety measures/fear of COVID-1917.8Planning8.3
Mobility use16.0Accommodation choice4.1
Table 10. Group comparison of travel push factors.
Table 10. Group comparison of travel push factors.
Travel Push FactorsMean (Scale 1: Very Important–6: Not Important at All)ANOVA
No Holiday Trip in 2020Different Holiday Trip/Destination in 2020Usual Holiday Trip/Destination in 2020AllFSig.
Discovery of unknown, other countries and cultures, adventure, thrill, and experiencing excitement2.512.133.042.5641.2310.000
Enriching perspective on life, broadening personal horizon, and taking on new or other perspectives2.402.212.782.4520.8370.000
Having many new experiences and new impressions2.091.882.372.1118.3170.000
Meeting of and talking to new people, observing other people, and making contact with locals2.822.553.162.8517.9690.000
Being in motion, being on the move, getting around, and going with the flow2.842.513.052.8314.3240.000
Learning something, development of skills and abilities, testing abilities, and being creative3.032.783.323.0513.6130.000
Being physically active, doing sports, and outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, fishing, and hunting3.122.693.043.0310.6930.000
Enjoying life with all senses, getting pampered, and indulging in luxury for some days2.432.382.752.4910.3580.000
Recognition, sharing my trip on social media, visit and share places friends have not been to, and gaining prestige4.053.654.134.008.8940.000
Rediscovering myself, gaining self-fulfillment and self-confidence, introspection, and mindfulness3.012.773.163.006.6980.001
Having fun, enjoying entertainment and partying, and being together with people who enjoy the same things2.452.442.732.516.670.001
Being independent and free, having no obligations, doing things one’s own way, and being in control of things that happen2.121.892.092.076.1640.002
Being close to nature, enjoying pristine nature, view beautiful scenery, and observing and studying nature2.452.292.232.375.3850.005
Giving your mind a rest, slowing down, and getting into other thoughts2.11.981.942.043.8510.021
Maintaining or improving my health status, keeping myself physically fit, and exercise and feel good after being physically active2.842.682.922.832.7070.067
Development and growth of personal spiritual values and reflecting on religious or other spiritual values3.693.503.763.672.3680.094
Enjoying sun, warmth, and sunbathing and suntanning2.562.432.622.551.6250.197
Just relaxing, chilling, lounging, and doing nothing2.
Experiencing tranquility, solitude, peace, and being on one’s own away from people and crowds2.682.592.572.641.1730.31
To be safe, avoiding the unexpected, to be with others if you need them, and to be near considerate people2.642.622.552.620.7170.489
Having time for and sharing time with family, partner, and friends, and doing things with members of my group1.911.971.911.920.3810.683
Distance from daily routine and avoidance of everyday responsibilities1.871.851.871.860.0470.954
Bringing back and reflecting on pleasant memories, thinking about good times had in the past, and visiting familiar places2.392.372.392.390.0130.987
Table 11. Group comparison of social values by Schwartz [52].
Table 11. Group comparison of social values by Schwartz [52].
Social Values by Schwartz
(Male Text Version)
Mean (Scale 1: Very Much Like Me–6: Not Like Me at All)ANOVA
No Holiday Trip in 2020Different Holiday Trip/Destination in 2020Usual Holiday Trip/Destination in 2020AllFSig.
He looks for adventures and likes to take risks. He wants to have an exciting life.3.403.053.693.4117.0540.000
Being very successful is important to him. He hopes people will recognize his achievements.3.663.273.793.6211.8280.000
It is important to him to be rich. He wants to have a lot of money and expensive things.3.993.624.133.9611.5170.000
It’s important to him to show his abilities. He wants people to admire what he does.3.553.173.623.510.3850.000
He likes surprises and is always looking for new things to do. He thinks it is important to do lots of different things in life.2.952.813.202.988.660.000
It is important to him to get respect from others. He wants people to do what he says.3.333.053.413.36.7670.001
Having a good time is important to him. He likes to “spoil” himself.2.722.602.922.746.3930.002
Tradition is important to him. He tries to follow the customs handed down by his religion or his family.
He seeks every chance he can to have fun. It is important to him to do things that give him pleasure.2.912.863.032.931.7420.175
It is important to him that the government ensures his safety against all threats. He wants the state to be strong so it can defend its citizens.2.712.702.822.731.2410.289
Thinking up new ideas and being creative is important to him. He likes to do things in his own original way.2.742.642.772.731.1670.311
He thinks it is important that every person in the world should be treated equally. He believes everyone should have equal opportunities in life.
It is important to him to listen to people who are different from him. Even when he disagrees with them, he still wants to understand them.2.502.572.592.530.9390.391
It is important to him always to behave properly. He wants to avoid doing anything people would say is wrong.2.822.752.742.790.7050.494
He believes that people should do what they are told. He thinks people should follow rules at all times, even when no one is watching.3.313.
It’s very important to him to help the people around him. He wants to care for their well-being.2.432.412.372.420.4330.649
It is important to him to live in secure surroundings. He avoids anything that might endanger his safety.2.682.732.652.680.3570.7
He strongly believes that people should care for nature. Looking after the environment is important to him.2.452.402.452.440.2370.789
It is important to him to make his own decisions about what he does. He likes to be free and not depend on others.
It is important to him to be loyal to his friends. He wants to devote himself to people close to him.
It is important to him to be humble and modest. He tries not to draw attention to himself.2.852.802.832.830.1240.884
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Tauber, V.; Bausch, T. Will COVID-19 Boost Sustainable Tourism: Wishful Thinking or Reality? Sustainability 2022, 14, 1686.

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