Leisure travel intention following a period of COVID-19 crisis: a case study of the Dutch market

Rami K. Isaac (Centre for Sustainability, Tourism and Transport, Breda University of Applied Sciences, Breda, The Netherlands, and Faculty of Tourism and Hospitality, Bethlehem University, Bethlehem, Palestine)
Jessica Keijzer (Breda, The Netherlands)

International Journal of Tourism Cities

ISSN: 2056-5607

Article publication date: 1 June 2021

Issue publication date: 15 October 2021

5727

Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to analyse what drives and limits the Dutch population during COVID-19 in their intention to travel for leisure once travel restrictions have been lifted, to gain an insight in the psychological travel barriers following a period of crisis.

Design/methodology/approach

The research process involved an online self-administrated method created with one of the leading research and web-based survey tools called Qualtrics. The questionnaire was filled by 402 respondents.

Findings

The findings indicate that the impact of COVID-19 on cutting down travel plans, certain personal values and structural constraints have a positive relationship with the leisure travel intention to various destinations. Moreover, risk perceptions and intrapersonal constraints have a positive relationship with domestic leisure travel intentions. However, these factors have a negative connection with the leisure travel intention to some international destinations. Further, decreased perceptions of risks have a negative relationship with the domestic leisure travel intentions.

Research limitations/implications

Using questionnaires in the form of online, self-administrated surveys made it impossible to get an insight in and have control over who responded to the questionnaire. Gaining an insight into the factors impacting the leisure travel intentions following a period of crisis will make it possible for the tourism industry to respond adequately to future crises and will make it easier for destination marketers and managers to attract new tourists during the recovery process.

Originality/value

To the best of the author’s knowledge, no analysis has been so far published with a focus on the impact of COVID-19 on the Dutch population and their intention to travel. It is crucial for gaining an insight into leisure travel intention and the factors impacting this intention following a period of crisis since travel intention is an under-researched topic of academic tourism literature. This study closes the existing gap in literature.

Keywords

Citation

Isaac, R.K. and Keijzer, J. (2021), "Leisure travel intention following a period of COVID-19 crisis: a case study of the Dutch market", International Journal of Tourism Cities, Vol. 7 No. 3, pp. 583-601. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJTC-08-2020-0158

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, International Tourism Studies Association.


Introduction

As Li et al. (2021, p. 1) stated “since its outbreak in Wuhan (China) in early January 2020, the COVID-19 strain of the novel coronavirus has spread rapidly across China and around the globe with a major resulting impact on travel and tourism.” UNWTO (2020) forecasts a decrease of 20% to 30% (US$300bn–US$450bn) in tourist arrivals (in international tourism receipts) in 2020. These numbers are likely to increase as the spread of coronavirus increases.

According to Karabulut et al. (2020, p. 1) “The World Health Organization declared this outbreak a pandemic. The number of infected people and death rates has increased rapidly. This has forced governments to implement several restrictions such as travel controls, school closures, limitations on internal movement to contain the spread in the country.” Therefore, this study analyses what drives and limits the Dutch population during COVID-19 in their intention to travel for leisure once travel restrictions have been lifted, to get an insight in the psychological travel barriers following a period of crisis.

Cahyanto et al. (2016, p. 198) state that to provide the tourism industry with information, which makes it easier to respond adequately to health-related crises such as COVID-19, continuous research in the field of pandemics and travel is critical (Cahyanto et al., 2016). As many scholars and media reporters have noted, the scale of COVID-19 has shocked the global tourism industry with a force similar to the Great Depression or the First and Second World Wars (Hall et al., 2020; Higgins-Desbiolles, 2020). Furthermore, the summer of 2020 is an interesting time to analyse what drives and limits the leisure travel intentions following a period of COVID-19 crisis. This crisis, which started with the outbreak of COVID-19 in China in December 2019 (Postma et al., 2020), has a major impact on the tourism industry and will, most likely, continue to do so for the rest of 2020 (UNWTO, 2020). According to Lehto et al. (2008), for effective crisis management such as, for example, COVID-19, it is essential to get an insight in the perceptions and perception changes of tourists. Doing this will make it possible to get an insight into tourists’ intention to travel (Isaac, 2020). Indeed, academics, journalist and social media commentators suggest a “new normal” (Ateljevic, 2020; Berentson-Shaw, 2020; Degarege, 2020), while the pandemic continues to grow.

Even though travel intention is one of the least studied areas of tourism (Makhdoomi and Baba, 2019), the factors that drive and limit travel intention can be found. Risk perceptions (Isaac, 2020), for example, play a significant role in tourists’ intention to travel. Yet, limited research has studied these two factors simultaneously (Promsivapallop and Kannaovakun, 2017). Furthermore, personal values can be useful for studying the travel intention, but only a limited number of studies have done so (Ashraf et al., 2020). Therefore, getting a better understanding of what drives and limits leisure travel intention is relevant. Within Europe, tourism numbers are expected to decline with 30% to 40% compared to 2019 [European Travel Commission (ETC), 2020]. From a European perspective, France, Italy, Germany, Belgium and Spain are the most popular holiday destinations of the Dutch population (NBTC Holland Marketing, 2019; NBTC-NIPO Research, 2020a) and are expected to be most severely impacted (ETC, 2020). Due to the current travel limitations and insecurity, the percentage of the Dutch population, which will take a holiday within the summer of 2020, will most likely be decreased by 39%. Nonetheless, leisure travel is still seen as critical by the Dutch population (NBTC-NIPO Research, 2020b).

Tourists’ travel intentions can be severely impacted by COVID-19 crises (Promsivapallop and Kannaovakun, 2017; Senbeto and Hon, 2020). Hence, for the tourism industry to respond effectively to crises, it is crucial to have a sufficient understanding of post-crisis travel intentions. Therefore, several factors that drive and limit travel intentions have been studied separately, but little is known about the leisure travel intention of the Dutch population post-COVID-19. Gaining an insight into the factors impacting the leisure travel intention following a period of crisis will make it possible for the tourism industry to respond adequately to future crises (Cahyanto et al., 2016; Lehto et al., 2008) and will make it easier for destination marketers and managers to attract new tourists during the recovery process. From an academic viewpoint, travel intention is an under-researched topic of academic tourism literature (Makhdoomi and Baba, 2019). To the best of the author’s knowledge, no analysis has been so far published with a focus on the impact of COVID-19 on the Dutch population and their intention to travel. Therefore, this study closes the existing gap in the literature and provides valuable knowledge on what drives and limits the Dutch population during COVID-19 in their intention to travel for leisure once travel restrictions have been lifted, to get an insight in the psychological travel barriers following a period of crisis.

Literature review

COVID-19

Due to the outbreak of COVID-19 in China in December 2019 and the rapid spread of the virus across the world, which caused a pandemic, the tourism industry is currently facing a severe crisis (Postma et al., 2020). The pandemic caused 100% of all countries worldwide to introduce travel restrictions. Out of these countries, 45% decided to partially or entirely close their borders for tourists, 30% chose to suspend international flights partially or entirely and 18% implemented different travel restrictions, such as closing their borders for passengers from specific countries of origin (UNWTO, 2020). From the tourist perspective, perceived risk can affect tourists’ destination choice and travel behaviour (Reichel et al., 2007). Furthermore, mass events were banned, people were advised to go into quarantine, countries were in lockdown (Niewiadomski, 2020) and people were social distancing (Galvani et al., 2020). All of this led to almost the entire tourism industry being put on hold (Niewiadomski, 2020).

It is expected that COVID-19 will lead to the largest downturn in tourism that the industry has ever experienced. Mass tourism had stopped expanding (Stankov et al., 2020), the world was temporarily de-globalizing and tourism facilities and attractions were closed down (Niewiadomski, 2020). Therefore, the tourism industry, especially international tourism demand is acknowledged to be vulnerable to crises (Cró and Martins, 2017; Ritchie and Jiang, 2019).

Simultaneously, the crisis is creating new, positive opportunities for the tourism industry as well. Many scholars believe that the current standstill of the tourism sector creates a chance to reflect on the environmental and socio-economic issues of the sector (Niewiadomski, 2020; Stankov et al., 2020) and to become more environmentally, economically and socially responsible (Niewiadomski, 2020). Williams and Baláž (2015) argue that the analysis of tourism risks at different scales should be undertaken to deepen our understanding of crises and disasters and, in particular, their impacts on the local and national level.

Based on the information within this section the following hypothesis has been created.

H1.

The impacts of COVID-19 have a positive relationship with the leisure travel intentions once travel restrictions have been lifted.

Risk perception

Within tourism, risks are the possible experience of undesirable incidents (Reisinger and Mavondo, 2005), threats, shocks and disasters that could harm the tourism industry (Cahyanto et al., 2016; Law, 2006). The UNWTO (2003; as stated in Lehto et al., 2008) has defined four primary sources of risk that can affect tourism destinations. These are, first, the human and institutional environment outside the tourism industry, second, the tourism sector itself and the connected commercial sectors, third, the tourists and fourth, the natural environment. Risks caused by these sources can negatively impact tourists, the tourism industry and the local communities (Lehto et al., 2008). Tourists are most likely to pay attention to risks that impact their feelings of safety and security (Lehto et al., 2008). However, besides looking at actual risks, tourists’ behaviour is most often studied through their risk perceptions (Hajibaba et al., 2015; Isaac, 2020; Isaac and Velden, 2018; Reisinger and Mavondo, 2005).

In this study, the definition by Zhu and Deng (2020) will be used since it studies risk perceptions, related to tourism, in the context of COVID-19, which makes it most suitable for the study of this paper. Zhu and Deng (2020, p. 3) describe tourism risk perception as “the subjective judgment made by consumers that lead to negative results for tourism, which resulted from the asymmetry objective existent in tourism safety information and of the subjective perception that tourists have.”

Tourists’ perceptions of risks have a significant impact on the tourism industry. Risk perceptions influence tourists’ choice to travel, especially so during times of crises (Hajibaba et al., 2015), as well as their decisions to choose a specific destination or product. Furthermore, perceived risks impact tourists’ future behavioural and purchasing intentions (Hasan et al., 2017) and their image of a destination (Isaac, 2020).

Based on the information provided in this section, it is believed as follows:

H2.

Risk perceptions have a negative relation with leisure travel intentions once travel restrictions have been lifted.

Travel intention

Travel intention, which is “an outcome of a mental process that leads to action and transforms motivation into behaviour” (Makhdoomi and Baba, 2019, p. 38), can be seen as a form of behavioural intentions. Related to the description of behavioural intentions, which is “the expectation to behave in a certain way with regard to different products and services” (Makhdoomi and Baba, 2019, p. 38), travel intentions are the expectation to travel in a certain way or to a particular destination (Makhdoomi and Baba, 2019).

The intention to travel is affected by various factors, which can both drive and limit travel intention (Makhdoomi and Baba, 2019). As was stated in the subsections earlier, travel intention is, among others, impacted by crises, since health crises, for example, can increase the demand for certain types of tourism (Wen et al., 2005). However, crises can limit travel intention as well (Promsivapallop and Kannaovakun, 2017; Senbeto and Hon, 2020), among others through the perception of risk related to crises (Hajibaba et al., 2015).

Personal values

The study of personal values has, in the past two decades, received full attention in different fields of the social sciences (Madrigal, 1995), surrounding consumer behaviour (Beatty et al., 1985). The reason for this seeming trend is the assumed relationship between personal values and behaviour. Therefore, personal values influence behaviour and, hence, can provide powerful explanations of that behaviour (Kamakura and Novak, 1992; Shrum and MacCarty, 1997).

Values guide people’s behaviour and choices, beyond immediate goals, into the direction of their ultimate end-state of existence (Li and Cai, 2012; Weeden, 2011). Values are used by individuals to select and justify actions of themselves, others and events (Weeden, 2011). Values are learned through culture (Li and Cai, 2012), social interactions and cognitive developments (Weeden, 2011) and represent specific universal human needs, such as the desire for social interactions. Furthermore, social scientists use the concept to explain human behaviour (Li and Cai, 2012).

Even though values have been confirmed to be reliable predictors of consumer behaviour and motivation, the relationship between values and tourist behaviour has been scrutinized by only a few scholars in tourism research (McCleary and Choi, 1999; Sharpley, 1999). Pizam and Calantone (1987) were the first to study tourist behaviour in relation to personal values.

One theory of values used by several tourism researchers is Schwartz’s (1992) theory of human values (Ashraf et al., 2020; Jovanovic, 2014; Weeden, 2011). This theory can be beneficial when studying travel intention (Ashraf et al., 2020), as will be done within the study of this paper. According to the theory, values consist of two crucial but different components, which are content and structure. The content discusses each value’s motivational goal. These goals are based on the belief that values represent three universal requirements of human existence, which are the individual biological needs, the needs of group survival and welfare and the needs of social interactions (Weeden, 2011). Based on this, Schwartz (1992) defined eleven universal value domains, namely, self-direction, stimulation, hedonism, achievement, power, security, conformity, tradition, spirituality, benevolence and universalism (Schwartz, 1992).

This revised model includes the value of spirituality, which was first not included in the model made by Schwartz (1992). Furthermore, it changes the position of the values power and achievement from self-enhancement to openness to change and puts the values of stimulation and hedonism under self-enhancement (Weeden, 2011). This revised model will be used for this study.

Based on the information provided within this section, it can be stated as follows.

H3.

Different personal values cause differences in leisure travel intentions once travel restrictions have been lifted.

Travel constrains

Over the past three decades, an increasing number of research studies on constraints to leisure activity participation have emerged, originally proposed by Crawford and Godbey (1987) and further elaborated by Crawford et al. (1991), has made a significant contribution in the literature. The model elucidates that an individual’s desire to participate in leisure-related activities is inhibited by three dimensions of constraints: intrapersonal, interpersonal and structural. In spite of potential applications of leisure constraints theory in studying travel behaviour, only a few studies have used the theory in a tourism context (Fleischer and Pizam, 2002; Hudson, 2000; Nyaupane et al., 2004; Pennington-Gray and Kerstetter, 2002).

According to Khan et al. (2019), travel constraints are factors that limit the development of leisure travel preferences, hinder people in participating and enjoying their leisure activities or prevent travel. Travel constraints are barriers, such as lack of transportation, safety, money, time, knowledge, opportunity or ability. They can be categorised as intrapersonal, interpersonal and structural constraints.

Based on the above, it can be stated as follows:

H4.

Structural and intrapersonal travel constraints have a negative relation with leisure travel intentions once travel restrictions have been lifted.

Methodology

This study used a survey research strategy, using a combination of descriptive and analytic survey research. First, descriptive survey research made it possible to get an insight into the crisis severity perception, the leisure travel intention and the different factors affecting the leisure travel intention following a period of crisis. Furthermore, the analytic survey research provides an insight into how these factors relate to each other. Therefore, a mix of descriptive and analytic survey research was most useful (Altinay et al., 2016).

Research sample

The researcher used a combination of convenience sampling, snowball sampling and self-reflection sampling within this survey research. First, convenience sampling was used by asking people through social media and email to fill in the questionnaire. The Dutch who happened to read the message was part of the first sample. Furthermore, the researcher asked respondents to share the survey with others, which has resulted in the snowball effect-sampling frame. Finally, the questionnaire was placed on SurveySwap and SurveyCircle. Respondents through these websites were part of the self-reflection sampling frame. The researcher beliefs that, combining these, made it possible to reach a large part of the population. The reason why a non-probability sample has been used instead of a probability sample is the fact that the researcher did not possess a list of every Dutch citizen (Altinay et al., 2016).

Research measures

All questions, except for the questions about demographic and geographic characteristics, were asked through five-point Likert scales.

First, to get an insight into the impact of COVID-19 on the Dutch population under study, two statements, based on the survey by Wen et al. (2005), were included in the questionnaire.

To identify the travel intention to specific destinations, the question “Once travel restrictions have been lifted, how likely is it that you will go on a holiday to the following destinations?”, adjusted from Isaac and Velden (2018), was asked about six destinations (The Netherlands, Germany, France, Spain, Belgium and Italy). On an international level, Dutch tourists mainly like to travel to Germany, France, Spain, Belgium and Italy. Therefore, these countries have been chosen for the current study (NBTC-NIPO Research, 2020b).

Furthermore, to get an insight of the travel motivation of the Dutch population under study, ten statements based on the survey by Sastre and Phakdee-Auksorn (2017), were included in the questionnaire.

The questionnaire included the values from Schwartz (1992), were used to get an insight of the personal values of the Dutch population under study. Next, to get an insight of the risk perceptions of the Dutch population under study, four statements, were adopted from the survey by Floyd et al. (2004) and were included in the questionnaire.

Furthermore, to gain the perception of travel constraints of the Dutch population, six statements, were included in the questionnaire. These were an adjusted version of the statements from the survey by Khan et al. (2019).

Data collection

To be able to start the data collection, the questionnaire was pilot-tested and adjusted during the first week of June. While doing this, the researcher asked one person in every age group from 18 to over 70 to answer the questionnaire and give a feedback. Hence, the survey was pilot-tested by six persons by the 5 June.

Next, the researcher collected the data between the 5 and 14 June. A total of 402 completed surveys had been collected by the 15 June.

Findings

Geographic and demographic characteristics

The complete data set consisted of 402 respondents. As can be seen in Table 1, out of the 263 respondents who specified their place of residence, most, 18%, lived in Zuid-Holland, followed with 8%, by respondents living in Noord-Holland and Noord-Brabant. Most respondents, 37%, were aged between 18 and 29, followed by 22% who were aged between 40 and 49. The gender of most respondents, 83%, was female. Most respondents, 24%, worked in health care and social services, followed by 20% who worked as a commercial employee, office employee or administrative staff. The highest level of education of most respondents, 39%, had a bachelor’s degree, followed by 29% who had an intermediate vocational education degree as their highest level of education and 14% who had a master’s degree.

Reliability of data and adequacy of factors

To test the reliability of the data set, the researcher applied Cronbach’s alpha for the entire data set, which resulted in a Cronbach’s alpha of 0.69, and for all scale question variables, which resulted in a Cronbach’s alpha of 0.79. Since a Cronbach’s alpha of around 0.7 or higher is acceptable (Field et al., 2012), it can be said that the dataset is reliable.

Furthermore, the researcher applied the Kaiser–Meyer–Olkin measure of sampling adequacy for all scale question variables, which resulted in a Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin (KMO) of 0.77 and showed that using factor analysis was relevant (Field et al., 2012).

The researchers applied the Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin (KMO) test for the factors, travel risk perception, structural constrains, interpersonal constraints, intrapersonal constraints, self-transcendence values, self-enhancement values, openness to change values and, last, conservation values. The outcome of these Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin (KMO) tests can be found in Table 2. Since a value of 0.5 or higher is acceptable (Field et al., 2012), it can be said that all these factors are reliable.

Impact of COVID-19

The mean for the impact of COVID-19 on the work and life of the respondents, as shown in Table 3, was 4.24. Therefore, COVID-19 had, on average, a slightly significant to a significant impact on the work and life of the respondents. Most likely, this was because people were advised to go into quarantine, mass events were banned (Niewiadomski, 2020) and people were social distancing (Galvani et al., 2020). Most respondents, 50%, answered that COVID-19 had a significant impact on their work and life, followed by 37% who believed that COVID-19 had a slightly significant impact on their work and life. Much fewer respondents, only 13%, answered that they did disagree, slightly disagree or neither agree nor disagree with the statement that COVID-19 had a significant impact on their work and life.

Looking at the impact COVID-19 had on cutting down leisure travel plans, a total of 31 respondents did not have any travel plans for the next 12 months, making this question irrelevant to them. These respondents are, therefore, not included in Table 1. The 371 respondents who did have travel plans accounted for a mean of 3.69, showing that they did, on average, neither agree nor disagree, to slightly agree with the statement that they had significantly cut down their leisure travel plans for the next 12 months. Most respondents, 49%, did agree with the statement. The fact that all countries worldwide introduced travel restrictions (UNWTO, 2020), tourism facilities and attractions were closed down (Niewiadomski, 2020), international passenger air traffic had almost stopped entirely and cruise ships were no longer allowed to enter most ports (Ioannides and Gyimóthy, 2020) could have had a major impact on this. As can be seen in Table 1, the answers of the other respondents were spread out. In all, 19% did disagree with the statement, followed by 17% who did slightly agree, 9% who did neither agree nor disagree and 6% who did slightly disagree.

Risk perceptions

The risk perceptions being studied were divided into three categories, travel, destination and domestic versus international travel. Travel risk perception looked at if a person felt nervous about travelling at the moment of data collection, which had a mean of 3.04, and if a person perceived travel as risky, which had a mean of 3.70. On average, the respondents did neither agree nor disagree, to slightly agree with the statements of travel risk. They did, on average, perceive travel to be riskier than that they felt nervous about it. Most respondents, 29%, did slightly agree with the statement that they felt nervous about travelling, while 36% did slightly agree that travel was risky. However, 22% did disagree with the statement that they felt nervous about travelling, followed by 17% who did neither agree nor disagree and 17% who did agree. Conversely, 31% did agree that travel was risky, followed by 13% who neither agreed nor disagreed and 11% who slightly disagreed.

The mean for the destination risk perception was 2.25, showing that respondents did, on average, slightly disagree, to neither agree nor disagree with the statement that holiday travel was perfectly safe. Most respondents, 33%, did disagree with this statement, followed by 30% who slightly disagreed and 20% who neither agreed nor disagreed.

Looking at domestic versus international travel risk perception, the mean of 2.92 shows that respondents slightly disagreed, to neither agreed nor disagreed with the statement that domestic travel was just as risky as international travel. Most respondents, 23%, slightly disagreed with the statement, followed by 22% who disagreed and 20% who agreed.

Leisure travel intention

As can be seen in Table 2, the respondents were most likely to take a domestic holiday since 32% were likely to take a domestic holiday once travel restrictions had been lifted and 31% were even very likely to take a domestic holiday. The next most popular destination was Germany, where 31% of the respondents were likely or very likely to go on a holiday. However, most respondents, 31%, were very unlikely to go on a holiday to Germany, followed by 23% who were unlikely to go on holiday to Germany. Besides the leisure travel intention to Germany, respondents were for an international holiday most likely to go on a holiday to destinations other than the five most popular destinations once travel restrictions had been lifted. Out of all respondents, 55% did not think of any other destination for their holidays. However, 29% was likely or very likely to go on a holiday in other destinations once travel restrictions had been lifted. Furthermore, 25% of the respondents were likely to very likely to go on a holiday to Belgium. Finally, less than 10% of the respondents were likely or very likely to go on a holiday to France, Spain or Italy. The fact that most respondents did not believe that international travel was just as risky as domestic travel and that vacation travel was not perfectly safe has most likely had a major impact on this, since tourists do often decide to change their destination choice when confronted with risks (Reisinger and Mavondo, 2005) and do not prefer travelling to destinations with high risks (Najar et al., 2020)

Personal values

Personal values within this study were divided into four different categories. These are the value types of self-transcendence, self-enhancement, openness to change and conservation. The value type self-transcendence consists of the values of universalism, spirituality and benevolence. The mean of the values of universalism and benevolence shows that the respondents did, on average, believe that these values were moderately important to very important, while the value of spirituality was seen as slightly important to moderately important. Most respondents, 43% and 54% of all respondents, believed that universalism and benevolence were very important. Spirituality, on the other hand, was seen as less important. Most respondents, 30%, did believe that this value was only slightly important. Looking at the value type of self-enhancement, respondents did, on average, believe that hedonism was a lot more important than stimulation. Hedonism was, namely, seen as very important to extremely important, while stimulation was seen as moderately important. The value type of openness to change consists of self-direction, which was seen as very important to extremely important, achievement, which was seen as moderately important to very important and power, which was seen as not at all important to slightly important.

The last value type, conservation, consists of conformity and security, which were seen as moderately important to very important and tradition, which was seen as slightly important to moderately important. Most respondents, 37% and 41%, believed that conformity and security were very important, followed by 35% and 35% of the respondents who believed that these values were moderately important. Alternatively, most respondents, 37%, believed that the value of tradition was moderately important, followed by 26% who believed that this value was very important.

Travel constraints

Three types of constraints have been analysed. These are structural, interpersonal and intrapersonal constraints and can all be found in Table 3. The mean of the structural constraints shows that respondents did slightly disagree, to neither agree nor disagree with the statements that their commitments keep them from taking a holiday, and that places they want to visit are too far away. Most respondents, 52%, disagreed with the statement about their commitments keeping them from taking a holiday, followed by 15% who slightly agreed and 13% who slightly disagreed. Simultaneously, 35% disagreed with the statement about places being too far away, followed by 22% who agreed and 17% who slightly agreed.

Respondents did, on average, disagree to slightly disagree with the statements of having no one to travel with keeping them from taking a holiday and of family and friends not being interested in taking a holiday. Most respondents, 84%, did disagree with the statement that having no one to travel with keeps them from taking a holiday, followed by 6% who slightly agreed and 4% who slightly disagreed. Simultaneously, 60% of the respondents did disagree with the statement that their family and friends were not interested in taking a holiday, followed by 16% who neither agreed nor disagreed and 13% who slightly disagreed.

Looking at the intrapersonal constraints, respondents did, on average, slightly agree to agree with the statement that travelling did, at the moment of data collection, involve too many risks. However, they did disagree to slightly disagree with the statement of not being interested in taking a holiday. Most respondents, 27%, did slightly agree with the statement of travelling involving too many risks, followed by 27% who agreed and 20% who did neither agree nor disagree. Conversely, 77% of the respondents did disagree with the statement of not being interested in taking a holiday, followed by 10% who slightly disagreed and 6% who neither agreed nor disagreed. The outcome of the two structural constraints statements and the intrapersonal constraint statement “Travelling at the moment involving too many risks” could be caused by the COVID-19 crisis since this crisis makes travelling more difficult (UNWTO, 2020) and most likely has increased risk perceptions related to travelling (Lehto et al., 2008; Senbeto and Hon, 2020). In contrast, the outcomes of the two interpersonal constraints statements and the intrapersonal constraint statement “Not being interested in taking a holiday” could be explained by the fact that leisure travel is, on average, seen as very important by the Dutch population ( (NBTC-NIPO Research, 2020b).

Impact of COVID-19 as a predictor of leisure travel intention

The impact of COVID-19 on cutting down travel plans is significantly related to domestic leisure travel intentions and the leisure travel intentions to Spain. The analysis shows that the impact of COVID-19 on cutting down travel plans has a more significant relationship with the domestic leisure travel intention than with the leisure travel intention to Spain. Besides, the multiple R-squared shows that a higher percentage of the domestic leisure travel intention, 3.07%, can be explained by the impact of COVID-19 on cutting down travel plans, than the percentage of the leisure travel intention to Spain, 2.20%, which can be explained by the impact of COVID-19 on cutting down travel plans. The researcher expects that this could be because respondents did not believe that international travel was just as risky as domestic travel, which might have caused them to travel domestically more than before the outbreak of COVID-19.

No relation between the impact of COVID-19 on cutting down travel plans and the leisure travel intention to Germany, France, Belgium, Italy or other destinations seems to exist. Besides, no relation between the impact of COVID-19 on work and life and leisure travel intentions can be found for any destination.

Risk perceptions as a predictor of leisure travel intention

The travel risk perceptions have a positive relationship with the domestic leisure travel intention, but a negative relation with the leisure travel intention to “other destinations.” While the estimate of 0.20920 shows that one point up on the five-point scale of the travel risk perception will increase the domestic leisure travel with almost 0.21 of a point, the estimate of −0.30153 shows that one point up on the five-point scale of the travel risk perception will decrease the leisure travel intention to “other destinations” with around 0.3 of a point. Alternatively, the destination risk perception shows that the perception that holiday travel is perfectly safe has a negative relationship with the domestic leisure travel intention, but a positive relationship with the leisure travel intention to Italy and “other destinations.” Also, the perception that domestic travel is just as risky as international travel decreases the domestic leisure travel intentions but increases the leisure travel intention to “other destinations.” All of these relations can be explained by the fact that tourists do, when confronted with risks, often decide to change their destination choice (Reisinger and Mavondo, 2005). So, tourists who believe that travel is risky and domestic travel is safest will most likely travel domestically, while tourists who believe that international travel is safe and just as risky as domestic travel will be more likely to travel abroad.

All relations between risk perceptions and the leisure travel intentions show that leisure travel intention can be explained by risk perceptions for around 1% to 8%. However, no relationships exist between risk perceptions and the leisure travel intention to Germany, France, Spain or Belgium. Also, no relation between travel risk perceptions and domestic versus international travel risk perceptions exists and the leisure travel intention to Italy.

Personal values as a predictor of leisure travel intention

The analysis shows that the value type of self-enhancement is related to the leisure travel intention to France, Spain, Belgium, Italy and “other destinations.” Within the value type of self-enhancement, the value of stimulation has a relation with the leisure travel intention to France, Spain, Belgium, Italy and “other destinations,” while the value of hedonism has a relation with the leisure travel intention to Spain and Belgium.

The value type of openness to change has a relation with the leisure travel intentions to France, Spain and Italy. The multiple R-squared ranges from 0.01447 to 0.06999, showing that around 1.45% to 7% of the leisure travel intention can be explained by the value type of openness to change. Within this value type, Achievement has a relation with the leisure travel intention to Spain, Belgium and Italy, while the value power has a relation with Spain and Italy.

Finally, a relation can be found between the value of conformity of the value type conservation and the leisure travel intention to Italy. No relation can be found between the different values and the domestic leisure travel intention or the leisure travel intention to Germany. Besides, no relation can be found between the value type self-transcendence and leisure travel intention to any destination. For the value type of conservation, only one value has a relation with the leisure travel intention to one country. However, no relation can be found for the complete value type.

Travel constraints as a predictor of leisure travel intention

The analyses show that travel constraints can have positive and negative relationships with leisure travel intentions, while they can, at the same time, not be connected with the leisure travel intention at all. Intrapersonal constraints do positively relate to domestic leisure travel intentions. Especially, the intrapersonal constraint of travel at the moment involving too many risks can be seen as important for domestic leisure travel intention. The multiple R-squared of 0.02849 for this relationship shows that 2.85% of the domestic leisure travel intention can be explained by travelling at the moment involving too many risks. Most likely, this is because respondents did not believe that domestic leisure travel was just as risky as international leisure travel.

Intrapersonal constraints do, on the other hand, has a negative relationship with the leisure travel intention to Italy and “other destinations.”

Structural constraints have a positive relationship with the leisure travel intention to Germany, Spain, Italy and “other destinations.” The multiple R-squared shows that 0.99% to 4.67% of the leisure travel intention to these countries once travel restrictions have been lifted can be explained by structural constraints at the moment of data collection.

No relation exists between constraints and leisure travel intention to France or Belgium, structural constraints and domestic leisure travel intention, interpersonal constraints and leisure travel intention to any country or intrapersonal constraints and leisure travel intention to Germany or Spain.

Moderation of travel constraints

Travel constraints work as significantly positive and significantly negative moderators in the relationship between push factors of travel motivation and the leisure travel intentions. The outcomes of the moderation analyses for which all three p-values are lower than 0.05.

Structural constraints work as negative moderators in the relation between push factors of travel motivation and leisure travel intention. The more a person’s commitments keep them away from taking a holiday, the weaker the relationship between the desire to enhance knowledge about a country and the leisure travel intention to Germany, and the relationship between the desire to escape from the daily environment and routine and the leisure travel intention to Germany will become. Also, the more a person perceives the places he/she wants to visit as too far away, the weaker the relationship between the desire to meet new people with cultures different from one’s own and the leisure travel intention to Italy, the relationship between travel motivation and the leisure travel intention to Italy, and the relationship between the desire to relieve stress from daily life and the leisure travel intention to “other destinations” will become. Furthermore, higher structural constraints will weaken the relationship between the desire to get relaxation and the leisure travel intention to Germany, and the relationship between the desire to relieve stress from daily life and the leisure travel intention to Belgium and “other destinations.”

Even though intrapersonal constraints can work as positive moderators in the relationship between travel motivation and leisure travel intention, they work mainly as negative moderators. The more a person believes that travel at the moment involves too many risks, the weaker the relation between the desire to meet new people with cultures different from one’s own and the domestic leisure travel intentions, and the relationship between travel motivation and the leisure travel intention to Spain will become. Also, higher intrapersonal constraints will weaken the relationship between travel motivation and the leisure travel intention to Spain. However, at the same time, higher intrapersonal constraints will strengthen the relationship between the desire to increase social status and the leisure travel intention to Germany.

Discussion

As shown earlier, COVID-19 had, on average, a slightly significant to a significant impact on the work and life of the respondents. Earlier research has shown that this could, among others, be explained by the fact that crises can cause unemployment, a loss of business and an imbalance in demand and supply (Senbeto and Hon, 2020).

Furthermore, the 92% of the respondents who had travel plans did neither agree nor disagree, to slightly agree with the statement that they had significantly cut down their leisure travel plans for the next 12 months due to COVID-19. One possible explanation for this could be the fact that lockdown and travel restrictions caused by COVID-19 made it a lot more difficult to travel (Niewiadomski, 2020). Also, the increased perception of risks could have had an impact on this (Lehto et al., 2008; Promsivapallop and Knnaovakun, 2017; Senbeto and Hon, 2020).

In line with earlier research by Trends and Tourism (2020a), respondents of the study of this paper are likely to very likely to take a domestic holiday once travel restrictions have been lifted. However, most respondents are unlikely or very unlikely to go on an international holiday once travel restrictions have been lifted.

On a domestic level, the impact of COVID-19 on cutting down travel plans, a person’s risk perceptions and intrapersonal constraints, have a positive relationship with the leisure travel intentions. This agrees with earlier research, which found that respondents who have been in quarantine for months have a keen interest in travelling (Wen et al., 2005), while pandemics do, at the same time, increase public awareness of risks (Lehto et al., 2008). When being confronted with threats, tourists often decide to change their destination choice (Reisinger and Mavondo, 2005), since they do not prefer travelling to a destination with high risks (Najar et al., 2020). Most likely, respondents perceive domestic travel as safer than international travel, which would explain the connection of the impact of COVID-19 on cutting down travel plans, risk perceptions and intrapersonal constraints and the domestic leisure travel intention.

On an international level, the impact of COVID-19 on cutting down travel plans, push factors of travel motivation, personal values and structural constraints can work as positive predictors of leisure travel intentions. The impact of COVID-19 on cutting down travel plans is significantly related to the leisure travel intention to Spain. According to earlier research, this could be because being in quarantine can increase the interest in travelling (Wen et al., 2005).

Earlier research has shown that personal values can be beneficial when studying travel intention (Ashraf et al., 2020) since they guide people’s behaviour and choices and are used to select and justify actions (Weeden, 2011). Personal values of self-enhancement have a positive relationship with the leisure travel intention to France, Spain, Belgium, Italy and “other destinations.” Personal values of openness to change, on the other hand, have a relation with the leisure travel intention to France, Spain and Italy. Furthermore, the value achievement of value type openness to change has a positive relationship with the leisure travel intention to Belgium, and the value conformity of the value type conservation has a positive relationship with the leisure travel intention to Italy. Based on this, it can be said that especially people who highly value self-enhancement and openness to change are expected to travel post-crises.

Finally, structural constraints have a positive relationship with the leisure travel intention to Germany, Spain, Italy and “other destinations.” Travel constraints do not always harm travel intention (Khan et al., 2019). Therefore, the fact that commitments kept people away from taking a holiday, and places being too far away, during the COVID-19 crises, make people want to travel once travel restrictions have been lifted.

The factors that can work as negative predictors of leisure travel intention are risk perceptions and travel constraints. Earlier research has shown that risk perceptions influence tourists’ decision to travel, especially so during times of crises (Hajibaba et al., 2015), as well as their decisions to choose a particular destination or product (Hasan et al., 2017). As revealed in this study, risk perceptions have a negative relationship with the leisure travel intention to Italy and “other destinations.” Simultaneously, the perception that holiday travel is perfectly safe and the perception that domestic travel is just as risky as international travel decreases the intention to take a domestic holiday.

Also, travel constraints can limit the development of leisure travel preferences, hinder people in participating and enjoying their leisure activities or prevent travel (Khan et al., 2019). It was revealed that intrapersonal constraints have a negative relation with the leisure travel intention to Italy and “other destinations.”

Earlier research has shown that push factors of travel motivation are affected by risk perceptions and travel constraints (Khan et al., 2019). Regarding this, the data shows that while risk perceptions can work as negative moderators in the relationship between push factors of travel motivation and leisure travel intentions, they mainly work as positive moderators. Alternatively, travel constraints can work as positive moderators in the relationship between push factors of travel motivation and leisure travel intentions as well but mainly work as negative moderators. Therefore, risk perceptions and travel constraints preventing people from travelling can both increase and decrease the relation between particular desires and the intention to travel once travel restrictions have been lifted.

Conclusions

The first barrier of leisure travel intention is COVID-19 itself. The crisis had a slightly significant impact on cutting down leisure travel plans. However, cutting down leisure travel plans due to COVID-19 has a positive connection with the leisure travel intentions for domestic holidays and holidays to Spain once travel restrictions have been lifted. Therefore, the crisis does not only work as a barrier to leisure travel intention but can motivate people to travel at a later moment, once travel restrictions have been lifted, as well.

Structural constraints of commitments keeping people away from taking a holiday and places being too far away can work as psychological motivations of post-crisis leisure travel as well.

Simultaneously, while risk perceptions and intrapersonal travel constraints have a negative relationship with the leisure travel intention to international destinations, they work as positive predictors of domestic leisure travel intentions. Most likely, domestic travel is perceived as being safer than international travel, causing people to prefer domestic leisure travel over international leisure travel. However, the perceptions that holiday travel is perfectly safe and that domestic travel is just as risky as international travel decrease the intention to take a domestic holiday.

Several personal values have a positive relationship with the leisure travel intentions. Values within the value type of self-enhancement do positively relate to the leisure travel intention to France, Spain, Belgium, Italy and “other destinations.” Values within the value type of openness to change do positively relate to leisure travel intention to France, Spain, Belgium and Italy. For the value type self-transcendence, no relation with leisure travel intention can be found. The value type of conservation has only one value that connects with the leisure travel intentions to only one destination. Therefore, especially people who believe that self-enhancement and openness to change are highly important are expected to travel abroad for leisure once travel restrictions have been lifted.

Structural constraints work as negative moderators in the relationship between push factors of travel motivation and leisure travel intention. Besides, even though intrapersonal constraints can work as positive moderators in the relationship between push factors of travel motivations and leisure travel intention, they mainly work as negative moderators as well.

While leisure travel plans have been cut down due to COVID-19, people are expected to travel once travel restrictions have been lifted. However, as long as people perceive travel as being risky, domestic travel will most likely be most popular. It is expected that international leisure travel to different destinations will start at different moments since leisure travel intention is not affected by the same travel barriers and motivations for every destination. Instead, different factors drive and limit the leisure travel intention to different destinations. While factors restricting the leisure travel intention to particular destinations can cause tourists to travel to different destinations, which are perceived as being safer, these restricting factors can motivate tourists to instead travel at a later moment as well.

This study can provide both academic and managerial implications. The findings of this study are relevant from an academic point of view, since this study is, to the best of the author’s knowledge, the first to focus on the intention of the Dutch population to travel for leisure once travel restrictions have been lifted following a period of the COVID-19 crisis, and the factors influencing this intention. Therefore, this study has set a first step in closing this gap in the literature. Furthermore, according to Ashraf et al. (2020), values can be useful when studying travel intention, but only a limited number of studies have done so (Ashraf et al., 2020). This makes the findings of this study relevant on an academic level as well. Researchers are recommended to use the value domains defined by Schwartz (1992) and the revised values circumplex created by Weeden (2011), as was done within this study, to increase the understanding of the relation between personal values and travel intentions within different situations even further.

From a managerial point of view, the findings related to the connection of risk perceptions, travel motivation, personal values and travel constraints with the leisure travel intentions are very useful. Currently, especially domestic holidays are popular among the Dutch population, among others because higher risk perceptions and intrapersonal travel constraints have a positive relationship with the domestic leisure travel intentions and a negative relation with the leisure travel intention to international destinations. Therefore, to strengthen the confidence of the Dutch population to travel for leisure abroad and decrease the risks related to COVID-19, it is recommended for tourism boards and destination management organisations (DMOs) in every destination to provide tourists with honest and transparent information about the pandemic and prevention measures (Wen et al., 2005; Zhu and Deng, 2020). Rebuild trust in a concerted and cooperative effort involving government, Destination Management Organisations (DMOs) and industry. Provide reliable, consistent and easy to access information on protocols to the private sector and to travellers (send short message services to tourists to inform them of national and local health protocols and relevant health contacts). For example, destinations must implement global and harmonized health, safety and hygiene protocols. Train the personnel in safety and security protocols and safe-service delivery and clean all surfaces more frequently, using products and disinfectants that meet requirements with special attention to high-touch surfaces. Furthermore, it is recommended for the tourism boards and Destination Management Organisations (DMOs) in Italy and other destinations than Germany, France, Spain or Belgium, to launch marketing campaigns focussing on the safety of travelling to these countries (Reisinger and Mavondo, 2005; Wen et al., 2005), targeted towards the Dutch population, once the risks of COVID-19 are minimal and the destination is safe to travel to, since the leisure travel intention to these countries has a negative connection with the perception of risks.

Furthermore, tourism boards, Destination Management Organisations (DMOs) and tour operators in France, Spain, Belgium, Italy and other countries except for Germany, focussing on the Dutch market, are recommended to create marketing campaigns and tourist experiences that agree with the personal values attracting tourists to these destinations (Ashraf et al., 2020; Li and Cai, 2012). Develop segmented and sustainable products focused on nature, rural areas and culture: eco-tourism, small group or individual sports, history, bird-watching tourism, traditional routes. Introduce storytelling for creating new tourism experiences and create personalized and small group tours and packages. Also, tourism boards and Destination Management Organisations (DMOs) outside of The Netherlands and tour operators working outside The Netherlands, focussing on the Dutch market, are recommended to emphasise their marketing activities on the desires that attract Dutch tourists to travel for leisure to these countries (Sastre and Phakdee-Auksorn, 2017). Create programmes and campaigns to incentive the Dutch market in cooperation with the private sector (incentive schemes, possible revision of holiday dates, transport facilities, vouchers, etc.) and integrate destinations. For example, destinations can promote rent-a-car services and combined hotel and car packages. Promote new products and experiences targeted at individual and small group travellers, such as special interest, nature, rural tourism, gastronomy and wine. However, for tourism boards, Destination Management Organisations (DMOs) and tour operators within Germany, Spain, Italy and other international destinations except for France and Belgium, it is recommended to focus marketing activities on decreasing the perception of structural travel constraints before developing marketing campaigns focused on travel motivation. Reassure consumers that you are doing all you can to make the destination/business safe. Therefore, tourism boards could adapt preventive measures focussing on long-term recovery and resilience planning (Ritchie, 2004).

Limitations

A first limitation can be found when looking at the research sample. It is not entirely representative of the Dutch population when looking at the demographic characteristics of age, which are mostly young people. Most likely, this is because using a probability sample was not possible. For future research, it would be suggested to use a different sampling frame and survey method, to make those future findings more representative of the Dutch population. Another limitation is the lack of reliable data. Many outcomes of the analysis had a p-value of higher than 0.05 and were, therefore, not included in this study. Thus, this study is missing data about motivators and limitations of leisure travel intention, which applied to the leisure travel intention to every destination. Therefore, it would be suggested for future research to have another look at the methodology and include another method of data collection.

Future research

It is suggested to study the leisure travel intentions of the Dutch population at a post-crisis moment. The primary research within this study has been conducted during a moment when travel was still restricted due to COVID-19. Therefore, findings of this study show the expectations of the Dutch population to intent to travel once travel restrictions have been lifted, but not the actual intention to travel at the moment that travel restrictions are lifted. Therefore, it would be very relevant to study the leisure travel intentions of the Dutch population at a post-crisis moment. By doing this, it would be possible to ascertain if the predicted leisure travel intention is the same as the actual intention to travel for leisure once travel restrictions are lifted.

Descriptive statistics; impact COVID-19

Impacts of Covid-19 N Mean Median SD
Impact of COVID-19 on work and life 402 4.24 4.5 1.02
Impact of COVID-19 on cutting down travel plans 371 3.69 4 1.57

Descriptive statistics; travel intention

Travel intension N Mean Median SD
Domestic leisure travel intention 402 3.56 4 1.39
Leisure travel intention to Germany 402 2.54 2 1.37
Leisure travel intention to France 402 2.13 2 1.25
Leisure travel intention to Spain 402 1.99 1 1.23
Leisure travel intention to Belgium 402 2.32 2 1.33
Leisure travel intention to Italy 402 1.95 1 1.25
Leisure travel intention to other destinations 225 3.09 4 1.72

Descriptive statistics; travel constraints

Travel constraints N Mean Median SD
Structural constraints
402 2.47 2.5 1.17
Commitments keeping one away from taking a holiday 402 2.12 1 1.38
Places one wants to visit are too far away 402 2.81 3 1.60
Interpersonal constraints
402 1.60 1 0.86
Having no one to travel with keeping one from taking a holiday 402 1.40 1 1.00
Family and friends not being interested in taking a holiday 402 1.81 1 1.16
Intrapersonal constraints
402 2.44 2.5 0.93
Travelling at the moment involving too many risks 402 3.41 4 1.36
Not being interested in taking a holiday 402 1.48 1 1.01

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Further reading

Dann, G. (1977), “Anomie, ego-enhancement and tourism”, Annals of Tourism Research, Vol. 4 No. 4, pp. 184-194, doi: 10.1016/0160-7383(77)90037-8.

Fall Diallo, M., Diop-Sall, F., Leroux, E. and Valette-Florence, P. (2015), “Responsible tourist behaviour: the role of social engagement”, Recherche et Applications en Marketing (English Edition), Vol. 30 No. 3, pp. 85-104, doi: 10.1177/2051570715594134.

Henderson, J.C. (2007), Tourism Crises: Causes, Consequences and Management, Elsevier, Oxford.

Hutcheson, G. and Sofroniou, N. (1999), The Multivariate Social Scientist, Sage, London.

Trends & Tourism (2020b), Toekomstvisie Nederlandse vakantiemarkt 2030, available at: www.trends-tourism.nl/uploads/1/Samenvatting%20Toekomstvisie%20Nederlandse%20vakantiemarkt%202030.pdf (accessed 18 May 2020).

Trends & Tourism (2021), Tien trends die het vakantiegedrag van Nederlanders de komende jaren gaan bepalen, available at: www.trends-tourism.nl/uploads/13/artikel%20in%20Strand%20Magazine.pdf (accessed 18 May 2020).

Corresponding author

Rami K. Isaac can be contacted at: Isaac.r@buas.nl

About the authors

Rami K. Isaac is based at the Centre for Sustainability, Tourism and Transport, Breda University of Applied Sciences, Breda, The Netherlands, and Faculty of Tourism and Hospitality, Bethlehem University, Bethlehem, Palestine.

Jessica Keijzer is an Independent Researcher based at Breda, The Netherlands.

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