COVID-19: potential effects on Chinese citizens’ lifestyle and travel

Jun Wen (Edith Cowan University, Joondalup, Australia)
Metin Kozak (School of Tourism and Hospitality Management, Dokuz Eylul University, İzmir, Turkey)
Shaohua Yang (Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, Malaysia)
Fang Liu (The University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia)

Tourism Review

ISSN: 1660-5373

Article publication date: 12 May 2020

Issue publication date: 26 February 2021

20673

Abstract

Purpose

The 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is projected to have adverse consequences on the global tourism and hospitality industry. This paper aims to examine how the outbreak may alter Chinese tourists’ lifestyle choices, travel behaviour and tourism preferences in the short and long term.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper is based on the synthesis of news broadcasted by several media outlets to be supported by an overview of the related literature on tourism marketing, tourism management and tourist behaviour. The authors’ experiences investigating trends in tourism and hospitality at the local and international level have also contributed to the study.

Findings

This paper predicts that COVID-19 will likely affect Chinese travellers’ consumption patterns, such as the growing popularity of free and independent travel, luxury trips and health and wellness tourism. New forms of tourism including slow tourism and smart tourism may also drive future tourism activities. Such changes are likely to force businesses to reconsider their service designs and distribution channels.

Research limitations/implications

While Chinese and other potential visitors rethink how they travel, professionals, too, should reflect upon how to bring positive or negative changes to the tourism industry following this pandemic. Subsequent research should also consider how to mitigate the effects of similar public health crises in the future.

Practical implications

Recommendations for industry practitioners and policymakers focus on tailoring travel arrangements to tourists’ backgrounds. The suggestions may help to alleviate outbreak-related stress, offer travellers newly enriching experiences and partially mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on the tourism and hospitality industry. These recommendations can also apply more broadly to global tourist markets.

Social implications

The COVID-19 outbreak has already brought significant impacts to nearly every society and industry. Tourism scholars and practitioners should carefully consider this tragedy and how it may inform industry and social practices. This and other public health crises represent sterling opportunities to view the industry holistically in terms of its effects on the environment, climate and travellers themselves.

Originality/value

This paper presumably represents a frontier study, critically examining the possible impacts of COVID-19 on Chinese travellers’ consumption patterns and how the tourism and hospitality industry may respond to such changes in the future.

摘要

预计2019年新型冠状病毒(COVID-19)爆发将对全球旅游和酒店业产生不利影响。本文预测, COVID-19可能会影响中国旅客的消费方式, 例如自由行, 豪华旅行以及健康与养生旅游的普及。包括慢速旅游和智能旅游在内的新型旅游形式也可能推动未来的旅游活动。这种变化可能促使企业重新考虑其服务设计和分销渠道。针对行业从业者和政策制定者的建议着重于根据游客的背景和需求量身定制旅行安排。我们的建议可能有助于减轻与疫情暴发导致的压力, 为旅行者提供全新的丰富体验, 并从一定程度减轻COVID-19对旅游业和酒店业的影响。这些建议还可以更广泛地应用于全球旅游市场。

关键词

COVID-19, 生活方式 旅游行为 灾后 集体主义倾向 中国

El extracto

El impacto del COVID-19 se prevé importante en la actividad turística global y en la industria de la hostelería. Este artículo predice que el COVID-19 afectará con probabilidad alta los patrones de consumo de los viajeros chinos, incluyendo los cada vez más populares viajes comprados directamente por los consumidores chinos, en el segmento del lujo, y el turismo de salud y belleza. Nuevas formas de turismo, incluyendo el slow tourism, y el turismo responsable pueden convertirse en importantes tendencias de futuro igualmente. Dichos cambios llevarán con cierta seguridad a la industria a reconsiderar y adaptar su oferta de servicios en este sector, en particular su diseño y los canales de distribución utilizados. Las recomendaciones para la industria y los responsables de la política turística se alinean con una mayor proximidad de la oferta a los gustos cambiantes del consumidor. Dichas acciones ayudarán a reducir fricciones y fallos en la definición del negocio turístico, ofreciendo a los viajeros nuevas y enriquecedoras experiencias, así como podrán mitigar en parte los efectos adversos estimados del COVID-19, los cuales son relevantes a día de hoy. Así mismo, dichas recomendaciones son aplicables de una manera más global a la industria del turismo y la hospitalidad en el mercado mundial.

Palabras-clave

COVID-19, Estilo de vida, Conducta del viajero, Post-desastre, Orientacion collectivista, China

Keywords

Citation

Wen, J., Kozak, M., Yang, S. and Liu, F. (2021), "COVID-19: potential effects on Chinese citizens’ lifestyle and travel", Tourism Review, Vol. 76 No. 1, pp. 74-87. https://doi.org/10.1108/TR-03-2020-0110

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited


Introduction

The business world is (in)directly influenced by various external factors, namely, global, economic, sociocultural, demographic, political and technological. Changes in these factors will lead to consequent changes in business performance in all industries. Such impacts can be industry- or region-specific. Until recently, the world was blissfully unaware of 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19); today, its possible social consequences remain ambiguous and no vaccine is yet available. Pandemics such as COVID-19 have a global reach and may soon appear as an established external factor in curricula on strategic management.

Although other factors are partly controllable by broader social systems or people, pandemics are comparatively uncontrollable when they emerge suddenly. Likewise, tourism is especially prone to changes in external factors given the globalised nature of the world’s economic and political systems. The tourism industry engages in (in)direct collaboration with more than 50 sectors and contributes to these sectors’ development to varying degrees; as such, the global value of tourism cannot be neglected. The influence of pandemics on the tourism industry is also inevitable irrespective of region or nationality. In recent years, the literature has framed the relationship between pandemics and tourism in terms of risk. Page et al. (2006) examined how VisitScotland prepared to respond to an influenza pandemic, providing a case study of best practice. Kuo et al. (2008) found that international tourism demand was adversely influenced in SARS-affected countries but not in avian flu-affected countries. Afterwards, Page et al. (2011) assessed the impacts of the global economic crisis and swine flu on inbound tourism demand in the UK. Novelli et al. (2018) studied the Ebola-induced tourism crisis in Gambia. Recently, Hanrahan and Melly (2019) suggested that measures be taken in Ireland to prevent potential biosecurity threats due to global disease outbreaks.

Tourism scholars have also argued that resilience is essential to sustainable tourism. In this context, resilience reflects place-based information derived from extensive human-land interaction. For example, in 2011, rural communities in north-eastern Japan had to recover from a 9.0-magnitude earthquake that triggered a tsunami and caused over 15,000 deaths (Kato, 2018). Such studies of tourism-related resilience after catastrophes have provided useful suggestions for industry recovery. Research findings have also focussed on tourist behaviour soon after a disaster, which can inform longer-term behavioural patterns (Tsai et al., 2016).

As a new pandemic, COVID-19 outbreak erupted in December 2019 in the city of Wuhan, Hubei province, China and spread rapidly via human-to-human transmission. Wuhan is a major transportation hub in China, located on the crossroads between the railway line linking Beijing and Guangzhou and the Yangtze River linking Chongqing and Shanghai (Zhong et al., 2020). Although Chinese culture is deeply rooted in collectivism and the Spring Festival is considered the most important time for Chinese families to get together, in response to the rapid spread of COVID-19 within Hubei province (Bogoch et al., 2020), the Chinese Government implemented a lock-down in Wuhan on 24 January 2020 – the day before the Spring Festival.

Yet human mobility has led COVID-19 to spread to other countries as follows: Europe is currently the epicentre of the pandemic, with more reported cases and deaths than the rest of the world combined apart from China (BBC News, 2020). Certain countries have taken specific steps, such as suspending their visa-on-arrival policy and instituting strict travel bans, to prevent the spread of the disease. Even so, COVID-19 has already brought potential economic ruin to Bali, Rome, Singapore, Barcelona and other destinations that were once tourist magnets (Neubauer, 2020). The impacts of this outbreak on the global tourism industry have been intensively debated across the academic community, industry practitioners and government departments as of late. COVID-19 has also been accompanied by immense media coverage, posts on TriNet and relevant paper submissions to tourism journals.

The pandemics forced the countries to close their borders and suspend the operation of airline services. As reported by United Nations World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO), it is too early to estimate the full impact of such a global crisis on the international tourism industry; however, COVID-19 could ultimately be responsible for a decline of between 20% and 30% in international tourist arrivals, totalling US$300-450bn in losses. This is even worse than the impact of SARS in 2003 (UNWTO, 2020). The China tourism boom has captured global attention from governments and industries worldwide and tourist destinations are keen to attract lucrative Chinese tourists to boost their economies. According to Statista (2020), China’s tourism market is thriving; the number of domestic trips was projected to expand by 2.38 billion by 2020, a more than 50% jump over a decade ago. China is also the largest inbound tourist market for numerous regions (e.g. Australia and New Zealand) and tourists’ spending has reached roughly US$292bn. However, in a report published on 7 February 2020, Dass and McDermott (2020) estimated that the tourism industry will see a US$22bn decline in Chinese outbound spending and 9 million fewer inbound tourists due to COVID-19. The outbreak has affected many destinations, potentially leading to between 7 and 25 million fewer Chinese departures in 2020. The global tourism and hospitality industry is facing dire circumstances in which lives have been lost, businesses are being forced to shutter and the public is on high alert.

Amidst a ballooning outbreak, the academic community continues to disseminate timely research for the greater good across the medical and hard sciences (Jiang et al., 2020; Li and De Clercq, 2020; Zheng et al., 2020a, 2020b), as well as the social sciences (Chinazzi et al., 2020; Li et al., 2020; Wen et al., 2020a; Ying et al., 2020; Zheng et al., 2020a, 2020b). Different from these studies, the current perspective article seeks to explore the broad social impacts of COVID-19 on tourism and hospitality as reflected in potential changes to Chinese individuals’ lifestyles and daily behaviour during this trying time. This study also discusses how the global tourism and hospitality practices are likely to change as a result of the pandemic. This paper is based on the synthesis of news broadcasted by several media outlets to be supported by an overview of the related literature on tourism marketing, tourism management and tourist behaviour. These insights are intended to help the industry practitioners tailor their products and services to post-COVID-19 recovery.

Effects of COVID-19 on Chinese lifestyle

Figure 1 presents the principles guiding this paper. An overview of how the COVID-19 outbreak is likely to shape Chinese tourists’ travel behaviour follows. Individuals’ lifestyles are inherently unique, drawn from the surrounding culture, traditions, infrastructure and other characteristics. Among the Chinese residing in mainland China, national cultural values greatly influence consumer behaviour (Hsu and Huang, 2016). Hofstede’s (1980) national cultural dimensions highlight collectivism as a distinguishing feature of Chinese culture (Fan, 2000). On a personal level, the Chinese tend to view themselves as part of a group or team, to be concerned about in-group goals and to be willing to sacrifice their personal benefits or interests for group welfare (Triandis et al., 1988). Such a collectivist orientation is heavily guided by norms and obligations, with an emphasis on group collaboration even when individual benefits are unclear (Ravlin et al., 2012). Individuals with a collectivist orientation are generally motivated by a desire to be similar to others and exhibit strong in-group favouritism. Moreover, collectivists are expected to prioritise the goals of a group or organisation, rather than personal attitudes, in determining commitment (Triandis, 1995).

These principles frame Chinese individuals’ lifestyle choices. For example, Chinese travellers have traditionally preferred all-inclusive package tours or group travel when visiting popular destinations (Chen et al., 2019; Huang et al., 2010; Meng, 2010). They especially enjoy travelling during public holidays, such as the Spring Festival, to reunite with family (Wu and Wall, 2016). The Chinese also prefer to spend their leisure time with friends or relatives, including at large-scale events (e.g. festivals) or in relatively more intimate settings. For example, they enjoy dining out with others, whether for special occasions or to connect more casually (Ibrahim and Howe, 2011). Restaurant dinners also represent a crucial networking strategy (Ying and Wen, 2019). The Chinese particularly favour busy restaurants, as heavy patronage is thought to reflect an establishment’s quality and reputation. Additionally, the Chinese often order several dishes to share at the table rather than selecting their own meals. They generally serve themselves using the same utensils (Ma, 2015) and add small portions of food to one another’s plates as an expression of hospitality.

China’s general population and social resources also inform individuals’ lifestyles. As the most populous country in the world, China was home to 1.5 billion residents as of 14 March 2020 (Worldometer, 2020a) – 18.47% of the world’s population. China has an estimated population density of 145 people per km2, exponentially greater than countries such as Australia (3.3 people per km2) (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2019). Chinese citizens have, thus, become accustomed to crowded public transit. Public areas, such as tourist attractions, parks and gardens, are often brimming with people, especially during public holidays. This tendency for crowding presented a huge concern during the COVID-19 outbreak because the disease is highly contagious and transmitted through human-to-human contact (Chan et al., 2020).

In an effort to reduce the spread of the virus, similar to other countries such as Italy, the UK, Austria, France, Portugal and Turkey, the Chinese Government has enacted policies to decrease personal contact and increase physical distance (Chen et al., 2020). As part of these social distancing policies, officials encouraged people to avoid mass gatherings. Large public events were postponed or cancelled and densely populated places (e.g. schools, universities, government offices, libraries, museums and factories) were temporarily closed at the height of the outbreak (The State Council of the People’s Republic of China, 2020). When COVID-19 was at its peak, limited segments of urban public transport systems were operational and all cross-province bus routes were taken out of service. Chinese citizens were essentially forced to protect themselves against COVID-19 by staying close to home, limiting social contact and wearing protective masks when going out in public. To further promote disease control and prevention, the mainland Chinese Government imposed stringent travel restrictions and encouraged potentially infected individuals to self-quarantine (Cowling and Lim, 2020).

According to Worldometer (2020b), the number of new COVID-19 cases has declined dramatically in China with no new cases reported as of 1 April 2020. As shown in Figure 2, the total number of COVID-19 cases in China has been exceeded by the USA, Italy and Spain. Elsewhere, new cases are climbing in countries such as Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany and France. The Chinese Government’s efforts to contain the virus appear to have been effective and can serve as a model for newly infected countries and regions (Westcott and Wang, 2020).

Yet these policies also temporarily changed Chinese citizens’ lifestyles, even for practices steeped in centuries-long history. The global hospitality industry should consider these modifications and the overall nuances of Chinese consumer behaviour to provide timely travel-related services. Given the recent emergence of this pandemic, research is also needed to explore Chinese citizens’ behavioural responses to COVID-19 and design plans for effective post-disaster recovery in the tourism industry. Figure 1 illustrates this perspective article’s insights into how COVID-19 is expected to affect Chinese tourists’ lifestyles. Practical suggestions include: implications for Chinese tourists’ behaviour and preferences and strategies for industry practitioners and policymakers.

Effects of the COVID-19 outbreak on Chinese tourists’ behaviour and preferences

As COVID-19 spreads across the world, many countries are instituting short-term travel restrictions to control the outbreak. For instance, the USA closed travel with China and recently introduced a travel ban for the UK and Ireland, scheduled to begin at midnight on 16 March 2020 (ABC News, 2020). These border closures, while necessary from a public health perspective, will intensify the tension caused by COVID-19 on the global tourism industry. Practitioners could look at past disasters such as the 2003 SARS outbreak (Mao et al., 2010; Zhang et al., 2005) and the 2004 tsunami at Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka (Robinson and Jarvie, 2008), for lessons on how to navigate a post-crisis travel landscape. In addition, practitioners should investigate evolving cultural transitions and their effects on tourists’ travel behaviour (Wen and Huang, 2019). It is also necessary to consider the impacts of crisis events on Chinese outbound tourist flows given Chinese tourists’ tendencies to avoid risk in everyday life (Jin et al., 2019).

However, in some ways the tourism industry has entered uncharted territory as follows: COVID-19 has already brought more severe consequences to the global tourism market as compared to SARS. UNWTO (2020) notes that the current situation is much worse than the consequences of global economic crisis in 2009 when the international tourist arrivals declined by 4% and SARS led to a decline of 0.4% in 2003.

Evolving tourist behaviour and preferences

The environmental pressure, regulations and global panic associated with COVID-19 appear to have enduring consequences on travel along with related distribution and packaging. For example, Chinese tourists become more likely – at least in the short term – to travel independently or in small groups to recover from self-isolation during the outbreak while remaining safe (i.e. outside large groups of people). They may also avoid visiting crowded tourist destinations, instead preferring less well-known locales. Additionally, they may opt not to travel during Chinese public holidays if they are experiencing diminished well-being after the outbreak.

COVID-19 could easily cripple tourists’ emotional stability. As the crisis intensified in China and later swept the world, some media channels deemed the illness “Chinese virus pandemonium” before China announced an official name. Other racially charged headlines, such as “China is the real sick man of Asia” and “China kids stay home”, have misled members of the public and incited discrimination against Chinese individuals. Wen et al. (2020a) discussed several possible consequences of biased reporting on Chinese individuals’ mental health. Given the apparent prevalence of discrimination against Chinese diaspora due to COVID-19, Chinese travellers should be cautious when choosing where to travel in the future.

Risk management

Research has shown that perceived risk negatively affects visitors’ destination perceptions (Khan et al., 2017; Loureiro and Jesus, 2019). These risks mostly pertain to safety and security, including health-related issues. Therefore, tourists are more likely to seek out destinations with established infrastructure and high-quality medical facilities following the COVID-19 outbreak. Overseas tourism destinations suffering from the spread of COVID-19 should strive to showcase their abilities to protect tourists from public health concerns while travelling. Such efforts include reassuring potential visitors of the availability of necessary supplies and publicising clinic and hospital locations. The quantity and quality of medical facilities in tourism destinations are also likely to shape destination image and, in turn, destinations’ power to attract Chinese tourists after COVID-19.

The outbreak has also a potential to influence trip planning in general. As certain parts of the world begin to recover from this crisis, individuals’ travel arrangements should be carefully organised to reduce potential health risks and minimise tourists’ stress. For instance, tourists should be required to purchase travel insurance when booking trips to ensure coverage in case of illness, including COVID-19. A relevant policy could even mandate that travel insurance be included in travel bookings as an automatic charge.

Service delivery

As reported by Zhang et al. (2005), following the 2003 SARS epidemic, Chinese tourists stated that they preferred separated dining when travelling with a tour group. Public health crises can easily affect tourists’ dining behaviour. Unlike their routine life, Chinese people will use plated food rather than shared food and utensils. A limited buffet or hot pot services can also be possible. Zhang (2020) urged tourists in the USA to avoid eating or drinking in restaurants, bars and food courts holding 50 people or more; an optimal way to support restaurants during this pandemic is to order delivery or takeout to minimise interpersonal interaction. Therefore, for now, Chinese tourists prefer to order takeout rather than dine in at restaurants to avoid unnecessary contact with others. Restaurants should thus advertise take-away options and emphasise their commitment to safety and hygiene protocols. Food is a key driver behind tourists’ travel and destination choices; as such, restaurants’ cleanliness and food quality standards are imperative to reassuring tourists after COVID-19. An alternative solution is the provision of packed and sanitised food. On vehicles, not fully booked seats is also a way of reducing human contacts and maintaining sanitation.

Transportation patterns

Regarding crowded public transits and popular public areas in China, significant changes are difficult to achieve immediately considering the country’s population density. However, Chinese individuals’ penchant for using public transportation and visiting popular public areas afford businesses valuable opportunities to shape public transportation via the sharing economy. For instance, bike- or ride-sharing services could offer suitable alternatives to more crowded transit options in the wake of COVID-19. Depending on the distance between one’s home and tourist attractions, the availability of various transportation options also help Chinese tourists decide where to visit. For example, visitors may wish to patronise places that are reachable by bike rather than those requiring a train ride.

Strategies for tourism practitioners and policymakers

A list of strategies for tourism practitioners and policymakers is given below. These strategies, fully or partially, can also be of help for non-Chinese nations across the globe while operating in their tourism industry.

Avoidance of overpopulated destinations

Because COVID-19 spreads via human-to-human transmission, social distancing has been suggested to help prevent infection (Lee, 2020). Practitioners should, therefore, devise tailored strategies to restore visitors’ confidence in travelling domestically and overseas post-outbreak. For example, in tourism destinations plagued by the overpopulation of visitors such as Venice, Italy (Seraphin et al., 2018) and Fjord, Norway (Oklevik et al., 2019), destination managers should determine how best to manage tourist flows to ensure visitors’ safety and well-being. The overpopulated destinations can be minimised if authorities impose visa restrictions and charge entry/user fees for certain attractions and activities (Butler, 2019; Wall, 2020).

Having sufficient facilities to address emerging or existing public health crises is also paramount. Conversely, tourism destinations that typically face “undertourism” (e.g. Western Australia) but possess appealing tourism resources and development potential (Huang et al., in press) has great opportunities to draw tourists to visit. Destination managers in these locations can promote their areas’ relative tranquillity as an opportunity for mental restoration after the stress associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Distribution channels

The past decade has witnessed a slow but smooth transition from the use of traditional travel agencies to online agents while purchasing tickets, booking hotels and buying package tours. The consumer behaviour model has also shifted to online platforms, including information searches, destination choice and purchase behaviour and experience sharing (Gretzel et al., 2019; Pourfakhimi et al., 2020; Zhang et al., 2019). In a similar vein, younger generations have become more sophisticated because of information technology permeating nearly every facet of their daily lives. The current trend of relying heavily on technology can easily diminish person-to-person contact as follows: people can work from home, engage in distance learning, conduct banking virtually and order goods/services online. While elderly segments continue to book holidays through traditional travel agencies and prefer package tours and group travel for a while (Wen et al., 2020b) to help ensure their safety and security, younger generations continue to use technology for travel-related purposes (e.g. comparing destinations, booking holidays and offering immediate vendor feedback).

Travel patterns

The Chinese tourist market is changing. Travellers are gaining more experience with international tourism. Younger generations are interested in designing independent, individualised itineraries and niche tourism is becoming more popular; thus, these tourists are unlikely to derive much benefit from traditional travel agencies. As the tourism market continues to diversify, travel agents should provide culturally sensitive guidance to help tourists remain healthy when travelling. Suggestions could include minimising unnecessary interaction with crowds, whether on public transit or in public spaces. Furthermore, Chinese tourists can be advised not to travel abroad but to instead pursue domestic tourism during public holidays for the time being. They could also be encouraged to schedule trips during less busy periods. In terms of specific behaviour such as dining, Chinese tourists should be encouraged not to share tableware, especially when dining in groups (e.g. on group tours). Restaurant managers can also control crowding by reducing the number of seats or increasing space between tables. To prevent cross-contamination from family-style dining, restaurants should serve customers individual portions of food.

Although international travel is currently discouraged, this change will not be permanent. Most Chinese citizens only travel overseas when they have extended free time; during such trips, they tend to be eager to escape everyday life, relax and enjoy novel experiences (Wu and Pearce, 2014). Following the COVID-19 crisis, nature-based travel options could be promoted for longer vacations and even brief weekend trips. Novel outdoor activities (e.g. hiking, driving recreational vehicles or swimming) would give Chinese tourists the opportunity to breathe fresh air, connect with something greater than themselves and rejuvenate after the stress of the outbreak.

Smart tourism

Smart tourism could also enhance the tourist experience (Buhalis, 2019; Buhalis and Sinarta, 2019). Visitation data, such as tourists’ time spent at attractions (e.g. museums, cultural heritage sites or festivals), will facilitate queue management. If attraction managers are aware of popular visit times, then the number of entrants could be limited to control traffic. The local government could also examine these data relative to local services such as bus routes, to minimise crowding (Inanc-Demir and Kozak, 2019). Tourist activities will inject sorely needed revenue into the outbound tourism industry; however, post-COVID-19 travellers will face more complicated decisions as they plan trips.

Conclusion

COVID-19 can be expected to have far-reaching impacts on tourists’ consumption behaviour. Such effects differ with individuals’ cultural backgrounds. This perspective article takes the Chinese population as a case in point to discuss the effects of COVID-19 on their lifestyle choices, as well as travel-related behaviour and preferences in post-disaster periods. With the significant impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak, this article provides key insights to help tourism practitioners and policymakers develop specific, effective strategies to boost tourists’ confidence after facing public health crises (Figure 1). These changes align with projected trends in tourism demand, such as the growing popularity of free and independent travel, luxury trips and health and wellness tourism. Yet travel movements have also become more selective; specifically, tourists may take fewer trips but spend longer in their chosen destinations. These patterns will lessen the growing negative impacts of travel and tourism on climate change and environmental deterioration. Based on the preceding discussion of Chinese tourists’ evolving behaviour and preferences and relevant tourism recovery strategies, travel characteristics may shift in the short term because of COVID-19 – effectively denoting a revolution in the global tourism industry and the behavioural features of its market.

As shown in Figure 1, tourists travelling in the post-COVID-19 era will be unwilling to participate in mass tourism and instead prefer more deliberate trips with an emphasis on extended experiences and holidays. According to Losada and Mota (2019) and Oh et al. (2016), the concept of “slow tourism” is gradually being accepted by tourists as a contemporary approach to travel. Slow tourism focusses on local populations, longer lengths of stay and more fulfiling tourist experiences. Tourists thus prioritise travel quality over quantity.

Residual fear associated with the COVID-19 outbreak or similar diseases lead tourists – Chinese and otherwise – to avoid crowded destinations, thus offering certain areas exemplary development opportunities. Mediterranean destinations, such as Turkey (Sönmez and Sirakaya, 2002; Yeşiltaş et al., 2010) and Israel (Wen and Huang, 2019, 2020), possess expansive tourism resources and rich historical heritage. These and other regions could capitalise on international travellers’ shifting preferences. Moreover, tourism destinations worldwide may alter their perspectives post-COVID-19 by considering previously ignored factors, namely, potential tourists are likely to express newfound interest in destinations’ hygiene and cleanliness, medical facilities and population density (including locals and visitors) when making travel-related decisions. The catastrophe of COVID-19 also offers crowded destinations and those suffering from overtourism, a chance to re-evaluate their tourism planning and development to ensure sustainability. As tourists prefer quiet destinations after the outbreak, the global tourism industry could collectively benefit from heeding these desires.

These anticipated changes in tourist behaviour and global tourism require close academic attention. Paul (2012) pointed out that tourism is an essential player in the global economy, responsible for millions of jobs and billions of dollars in revenue. It is also a primary means of development for many communities, especially emerging countries. Therefore, travellers, industry practitioners and policymakers should rethink tourist behaviour, tourism operators’ market and product development and travel industry policies and regulations to foster ongoing sustainability.

Empirical data collected from key stakeholders could help scholars explore, confirm or critique expected travel trends. The COVID-19 global health crisis will likely have unprecedented effects on global tourism given its scope. Tourists’ behaviour and preferences and their impacts on the global tourism market, require in-depth analyses to enable industry practitioners and policymakers to develop a more balanced industry. Demographic changes in tourism will also lead to the emergence of new markets that academics and practitioners can investigate together. Findings from such empirical studies are likely to shape theories on consumer behaviour, marketing and management, both in tourism specifically and broader fields in general.

The COVID-19 outbreak has already brought significant impacts to nearly every society and industry. Tourism scholars and practitioners should carefully consider this tragedy and how it will inform industry practices. This and other public health crises represent sterling opportunities to view the industry holistically in terms of its effects on the environment, climate and travellers themselves. While Chinese and other potential visitors rethink how they travel, professionals, too, should reflect upon how to bring positive changes to the tourism industry following this pandemic. Subsequent research should also consider how to mitigate the effects of similar public health crises in the future.

As a final note, the influence of pandemics should be considered within a wider community sense; it is surely not unique to tourism and China. In comparison to earlier outbreaks such as SARS, COVID-19 is poised to have greater sociological, economic and psychological impacts if it is not eradicated swiftly across the world. While society can recover relatively easily from economic disruption, including in international tourism activities, following COVID-19, the sociological and psychological impacts will be more enduring. Individuals must, therefore, navigate the current post-COVID-19 landscape carefully and compassionately.

Figures

Research diagram and key insights: impacts of COVID-19 on Chinese’s lifestyles and post-disaster travel behaviour

Figure 1

Research diagram and key insights: impacts of COVID-19 on Chinese’s lifestyles and post-disaster travel behaviour

Worldometer: COID-19 pandemic

Figure 2

Worldometer: COID-19 pandemic

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Further reading

Huang, S., Wen, J., Clarke, J. and Wang, Y. (2020), “Western Australia’s place in the Chinese tourism boom”, Unpublished industry report.

Corresponding author

Metin Kozak can be contacted at: m.kozak@superonline.com

About the authors

Jun Wen is based at Edith Cowan University, Joondalup, Australia. He is a Lecturer in Tourism and Hospitality Management in the School of Business and Law at Edith Cowan University. His current research interests lie in Chinese outbound tourism marketing, behaviours and other related aspects.

Metin Kozak is based at the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management, Dokuz Eylul University, İzmir, Turkey. He is based at the School of Tourism, Dokuz Eylul University, Izmir, Turkey. He holds both Master’s and PhD degrees in tourism management. His research focusses on consumer behaviour, benchmarking, destination management and sustainability. He acts as the co-editor of Anatolia and has been to several universities in the USA, Europe and Asia as a visiting scholar and many conferences as a keynote speaker.

Shaohua Yang is based at Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, Malaysia. He is a PhD candidate in the Graduate School of Business at Universiti Sains Malaysia. He is also currently a PhD exchange student (Erasmus funding) in Adam Smith Business School at University of Glasgow, UK. His PhD research topic is about Chinese revisit intention to New Zealand: a behavioural analysis of Chinese outbound tourists. His current research interests lie in tourism marketing, tourist behaviour, special interest tourism, self-congruency and destination personality.

Fang Liu is based at The University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia. She (PhD in Marketing) is an Associate Professor in Marketing at the Business School of the University of Western Australia, Australia. Dr Liu’s research, teaching and consulting areas centre on consumer/tourist experience, marketing communication, branding, consumer psychology and cross-cultural consumer behaviour. She has a wide range of publications and extensive industry experiences in marketing, advertising and new product/service development.

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