Permanently Altered: How Covid-19 Has Impacted Leisure and Travel

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Since last March, Covid-19 has become a global antagonist of the global community. People from every corner of the world have been forced to change their everyday routines in various ways including decreasing physical interactions, conducting work from home, and participating in virtual meetings. As the virus continues to spread, it has become increasingly clear that while the pandemic may be under control one day, few will be able to go back to the normal life of former times. As such, the Covid-19 pandemic has come to represent more than merely a disease in our lives; it is a world-changing era that will drastically alter the ways in which people spend their leisure time and their perceptions of travel.

Covid-19 has gradually changed how people relax in the last year. Before the pandemic, most people were living in a fast-paced lifestyle where most leisure activities passed quickly. During the pandemic, masses were able to save on commute time and spend more time at home--which inevitably changed how they spend time relaxing. According to leisure researchers, people dedicated more time to “pause, reflect, rethink, and learn,” showing an “awakening of consciousness” (1). Information gathered by BBC and The Guardian also revealed that people have engaged more in metacognitive activities and reflections because COVID-19 shifted their lives upside-down in a short period of time (2). Moreover, the lockdowns due to the pandemic have forced people to explore relaxing at home, and come up with many creative events. For example, people took advantage of slow leisure (relaxing activities that have a slow lifestyle), one of the often-overlooked mediums of leisure in everyday life (3). For example, balcony concerts, shared TikTok dance videos and backyard marathons became known as the “magnified moments” that captured a large part of how people around the world relaxed (4)(5)(6)(1).

Though most people developed novel patterns of leisure under the pandemic, lockdowns also raised societal concern that some people did not have the opportunity to explore the huge potentials of slow leisure (1). The Covid-19 pandemic magnified social inequalities reflected through many others’ leisure activities. In low-income families, children have limited space to play, and homeless people are unable to “stay home,” let alone explore leisure activities (7)(8). For some minority groups like women who were caregivers or homeschooling their children, the pandemic was a double crisis such that their previously limited leisure time shrank even more together with the economic dilemma brought by the lockdown (9). These issues have called for officials’ attention to re-examine current policies and come up with strategies to better help the vulnerable population.

Besides leisure, another domain that has been drastically impacted by the pandemic is travel. Researchers from various fields have speculated that the coronavirus would never completely disappear, indicating that we may never return back to the normal way of traveling (1). Several studies have also revealed that even when Covid-19 is under control, people’s attitudes and perceptions of traveling will have changed (10). Results showed that the susceptibility of getting COVID-19 during the trip and the threat of death aftermath severity of threat and susceptibility can cause “travel fear,” which leads to protection motivation and will perpetuate protective travel behaviors after the pandemic outbreak that may further evoke different coping strategies (11). In general, many people are fearful of traveling even after the pandemic, so scholars have recommended some psychological strategies to cope with negative feelings. Some tactics can increase people’s psychological resilience and adoption of cautious travel behaviors. They are problem-focused coping, self-supported emotional coping, social-supported emotional coping, and disengagement coping (12). Research has proven that these methods significantly increase individuals’ psychological resilience against pandemic “travel fear.”

Psychologists further analyze resilience and identify the “resilience adaptive cycle” that helps people understand how their perceptions change over time (12). They introduce four phases:

Phase 1: (Re-)Organization (innovation and creativity),

Phase 2: Growth (exploiting opportunities that arise from phase 1),

Phase 3: Consolidation (establishing fixed institutions and rules for phase 2),

Phase 4: Collapse (failure of fixed institutions in phase 3 to adapt to context changes),which results in a return to Re-organization (phase 1) or, alternatively, the complete dissolution of the system

These psychologists explain that the ideal change pattern does not need to include all four phases (12). In fact, the system can work healthily without the involvement of the fourth phase. The first phase is the most crucial one that calls both aviate travelers as well as policy makers’ efforts to quickly adapt to the influence brought by Covid-19 and come up with innovative solutions to keep visitors safe while enjoying the trip. Traveling includes many uncertainties and making travel plans after the pandemic can be more challenging given people’s increasing fear. Therefore, potential solutions should focus on two perspectives. One is to address tourists’ emotional concerns and the other is to come up with creative policies to ensure people’s safety.

Ultimately, Covid-19 will represent much more than an ephemeral pandemic that came and went in a few years; rather, it has and will continue to define peoples’ daily routines. This era will make people engage in more reflective activities due to the stay-at-home order, which may persist long-term impact even after the pandemic. More importantly, it also brings more uncertainties to people’s travel plans which call for both emotional relief strategies and creative policies to protect tourists during their trips.


  1. Lashua, B., Johnson, C. W., & Parry, D. C. (2020). Leisure in the time of coronavirus: A rapid response special issue. Leisure Sciences, 1-6.
  2. Syed, M. (2020, 3 March). Coronavirus: The good that can come out of an upside-down world. BBC News.
  3. Monbiot, G. (2020, May 12). Coronavirus shows us it’s time to rethink everything. Let’s start with education. The Guardian.
  4. Clinch, M. (2020, March 14). Italians are singing songs from their windows to boost morale during coronavirus lockdown. CNBC.
  5. Awha, D. (2020, April 5). The best TikTok dances to learn during lockdown. Viva Magazine.
  6. Farzan, A. N. (2020, April 2). A British man ran a marathon in his 20-foot backyard during the coronavirus lockdown — and thousands tuned in. The Washington Post.
  7. Rosenthal, D. M., Ucci, M., Heys, M., Hayward, A., Lakhanpaul, M. (2020). Impacts of COVID19 on vulnerable children in temporary accommodation in the UK. The Lancet, 5(5), E241–E242.
  8. Levin, D. (2020, March 31). Las Vegas places homeless people in a parking lot, 6 feet apart. The New York Times.
  9. Fazackerley, A. (2020, May 12) Women’s research plummets during lockdown - but articles from men increase. The Guardian.
  10. Kruglanski, A. (2020). 3 ways the coronavirus pandemic is changing who we are. The Conversation (March 20),
  11. Image source:
  12. Zheng, D., Luo, Q., & Ritchie, B. W. (2021). Afraid to travel after COVID-19? Self-protection, coping and resilience against pandemic ‘travel fear’. Tourism Management, 83, 104261.
  13. Lew, A. A., Cheer, J. M., Haywood, M., Brouder, P., & Salazar, N. B. (2020). Visions of travel and tourism after the global COVID-19 transformation of 2020.
More posts by Chenyu Wang.
Permanently Altered: How Covid-19 Has Impacted Leisure and Travel
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