Otago Polytechnic

Post COVID-19 tourists may seek reassurance that their trips are good for the environment.

As the world grapples with the pandemic and tourism grinds to a halt, stories on social media are surfacing that claim wildlife is returning to quarantined cities and that the Earth is healing itself. Much of the implicit critique of these stories is directed at the tourism industry, with two viral posts in particular supposedly documenting the ‘rewilding’ of Venice, that infamous icon of overtourism. While the popular media have been concerned primarily with the factual accuracy of these claims, what has gone largely unexplored is the apparent desire for environmental reparation that they express. 

Emilie Crossley suggest that the fixation on environmental healing evidenced in tourist social media can be interpreted as a response to widely-felt ‘ecological grief’, brought out into the open by the events of COVID-19. Animal reclamation of urban spaces can be identified as a motif of environmental hope that symbolises life, regeneration and resilience. That stories of animals reclaiming human spaces have come from all over the world also provides a desired sense of connection – to the natural world and to one another – at a time of profound disconnection. 

The notion that nature has been able to ‘hit the reset button on us’ imparts a comforting reassurance that our planet’s resilience is greater than the damage we have done to it and carries hope for a fresh start. Understanding these psychological and emotional dynamics may help to advance our understanding of tourist consumer behaviour and contribute to the development of values-led hopeful tourism in the post-COVID-19 era.

Sep 2020

Image credit: "Micklpickl", used under Creative Commons licence CC BY-SA 2.0