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The mystery of corona consumer behaviour – perspectives on travel and tourism


Annika Konttinen

lehtori, matkailuliiketoiminta
Senior Lecturer, tourism business
Haaga-Helia ammattikorkeakoulu

Eva Holmberg

Yrkeshögskolan Novia

Published : 22.06.2020

During the spring of 2020, something unexpected happened. The corona pandemic stopped all international travel and people all over the world have stayed at home since then.

During the lockdown, people have been working from home and staying there with their family or completely alone if you live for yourself.

Families have had plenty of quality time together. To many of us, life under lockdown has meant ordering take-away meals, watching Netflix and listening to Spotify.

People are exercising and buying exercise equipment online. Online activity has been booming. But what will the consumers do now when the restrictions are easing a bit? 

There has been a lot of discussions in newspapers and social media whether consumer behaviour and travel preferences will change permanently due to the pandemic. Nobody knows how consumer behaviour will eventually evolve – that is why it is a mystery.

In our previous blog posts, destination and company viewpoints from a COVID-10 perspective were discussed. This blog post, the third of the trilogy, presents an outlook for post-corona consumer behaviour and potential buyer personas for our readers and our TOURIST* project partners. 

Bertha Buyer-Boomer

Even baby boomers have learned to shop online. Many of them belong to the corona risk groups and have been forced to get their groceries delivered home – often that has meant online shopping.

Now that they have become used to buying food online, perhaps the previously less digital-savvy consumers will now be able and willing to buy travel-related products and services online when the world finally opens up again. All you need to do, is to hook Bertha with targeted digital marketing.

Lisa Local and Larry Luxury

There are many who have now stayed at home, worked from home and enjoyed days off at home as well. It is high time to move outside of the four walls of home. Lisa and Larry have saved money by not having to commute or not being able to take holidays around the world.

“Share the story behind your locally-made meals and handicrafts.”

They are now looking forward to spending their money and having a good time out of their homes. The question is whether they go for the premium services at luxury hotels, or they just want to keep isolating and spend their extra money on a second home in the middle of nature.

A second home is a place where they could escape should another wave or pandemic hit our shores. Share the story behind your locally-made meals and handicrafts – and you will have Lisa and Larry queueing at your door.

Nella Nature Lover

During the lockdown, a huge number of people have discovered national parks and nature areas for the first time. Hiking in the nature has become a source of physical and mental wellbeing. That’s why Nella is more than willing to pay for the meaningful experience she cannot or does not dare to create herself.

Nella is keen on experiential offers like spending a night in a tree tent in the forest or taking part in a virtual wild food cooking class. To get Nella’s business, you should offer easy-to-book-and-buy packages of yoga retreats and mindfulness sessions in the nature close by.

Nella is keen on experiential offers like spending a night in a tree tent in the forest or taking part in a virtual wild food cooking class.

Arthur Adventurer

There are those of us – an increasing global cohort– who are so eager to travel again that they are willing to risk it all for wanderlust. Arthur Adventurer types will hop on a plane or ferry to Stockholm, book a July holiday in Spain or a diving trip to Thailand as soon as there are flights available.

He thinks that the risk of catching the virus is minimal and definitely not worth depriving life of the fun of travel. There are few arthurs in the risk groups as well. Those who believe that freedom is the most important value and those who do not accept being tied down by restrictions issued by the authorities. Open the doors to your business, Arthur is coming.

Ted TikTok

When you see serious CNN reporters show their funny alter egos in TikTok videos, you realize that the world has changed. Intellectuals used to take to TED Talks to look for creative ideas, now the ultimate source seems to be the Chinese video sharing channel TikTok.

Our attention spans have shortened during the corona lockdown. Perhaps our minds can be reached only through a 15 second video – at least those have effectively taught us how to wash our hands.

Perhaps bloggers will turn to TikTok to influence our buying behaviour in the future. You can catch Ted’s attention if you manage to capture your message in a fun-filled format.

As the mystery evolves

Did you identify with any of the six personas above? We certainly did. Arguably most of us see at least a bit of Nella, Lisa, Larry and Ted in ourselves. However, the actual behavior of these buyer personas is still a mystery.

What values and motives will influence their consumer behavior? Finally, has anything changed compared to the pre-corona era?

Of course, consumers will always have a need to escape from their daily lives, just like they did before the pandemic. But how far from home are people willing to travel when they remember the challenges of getting home during the first wave of the COVID-19 outbreak?

It remains to be seen how long it will take for long-haul travel to recover and how internal tourism on different continents will develop in the near future.

A sustainable path to the future

As highlighted in the trilogy’s previous blog posts, travel and tourism companies and destinations now have an opportunity for sustainable replanning and development.

The current online source review for this blog post reveals that consumers are awake and alert. They may be more willing than ever to pay for local and responsible services and experiences.

Since we have all been hit by the consequences of the virus, it is responsibility that will appeal to us in the post-pandemic world of travel and tourism. This is a chance for companies and destinations to change for the better.