Post-COVID new normal: Revenge tourism and its implications

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown that followed it, we witnessed a tremendous effect on the idea of “travel”.

The total lockdown meant abandonment of the idea of going out or even making plans for a day-trip, not to mention “long vacations” which were off the menu. The COVID-19 outbreak put a huge damper on the summer holidays which fell normally during the month of June/July/August for the families. For the road trippers, hikers and trekkers, the COVID situation has brought in a whole new level of frustration as they were stuck at home.

The social media pages during the extended lockdown period were filled with ‘nostalgic’ hashtags followed by throwback pictures from the past travels. The nostalgia along with the yearning to be somewhere else but home, was highlighted in the comments sections under such posts. People took to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp to vent out their frustration.

For those living within the city of Guwahati, it was a respite when there was some relaxation in the lockdown rules. The pressure of staying locked in had such a severe impact, so much so that places like Deepor Beel, Chandrapur, Chandubi, Ukiam and others got over-crowded. The same could be said of the resorts flourishing in the city outskirts.

“Revenge travel” has become the toast of the season in this time of crisis all across the globe. But, will the rush of tourists, hikers and trekkers because of the “revenge travel” result in a big boost to the tourism sector?

What is ‘revenge tourism’?

This term has been doing the rounds across social media and other media platforms since last year. It is the urge to break free from the “house arrest” which is not self-imposed. As the compulsion to stay indoors owing to COVID has been forced by an external factor, the need to break away as a form of revenge has given rise to this term.

As a result, the inflow of tourist to popular destinations like Shimla, Manali, Kinnaur, Dharamshala have only increased post relaxation in June. As reported by the Himachal Pradesh Tourism Department official, the number of tourist flow has been nearly 6-7 lakh.

Reality check!

The worst sufferers of this lockdown are those who depend on tourism for their survival and existence. It might be more of an ethical issue for those who plan to travel keeping in mind the pandemic situation and how much risk they put those who host them. These locales are more susceptible and vulnerable as more people start making entries.

The limited number of facilities related to healthcare in these tourist places makes it even more important for the travellers to make a conscious choice with regard to their travel plans.

Taking precautionary measures like maintaining social distance, looking into health and hygiene, wearing a mask etc. could be helpful. But the authority must ensure that the inflow of tourists, hikers, trekkers is restricted so that the risk of getting exposed to the virus is minimized for the locals.

While the tourism sector in Northeast is in need of revamping owing to the present circumstances, the concerns with travel during the pandemic raises certain issues.

Safari at Kaziranga National Park | Photo: Jayanta Deka

Does travelling during this pandemic (which is not over yet) be beneficial and to whom will be an essential question? Secondly, how is it going to affect the places of tourist attraction and the locales who basically depend on tourism. But at the same time, the latter cannot run the risk of opening up to tourism owing to limited infrastructure related to health and other aids. Then, what are the options for the tourists/travellers? How to meet the demands of those with “itchy feet” and at the same time ensure safety for the hosts as well as the guests.

What is the answer to “revenge tourism” then?

The answer is: responsible tourism.

While the city dwellers might find it safe to stay within the boundaries of the city, this is also the time to explore all the hidden spots within the city space. “Urban hikes” could be the new trend now. Many travel groups have taken on this idea of hiking to local spots within the city.

For those in Guwahati, there are many trails for a short day-hike organised by various groups. For others, it might be a good time to explore the nooks and corners of the city for some heritage walk.

As for those states that have opened up their gates for tourism must ensure strict monitoring at all check points- whether entry gates, toll gates, hotels, homestays, hostels etc. Any lapse on the side of the administration or carelessness on the part of the traveller/tourist can put the lives of those (they come in contact to) in danger.

Hence, responsible tourism is the only alternative to boost the travel and hospitality sector and satisfy the desires of the travel enthusiasts.

About Dr Sukmaya Lama

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The author is a PhD holder and is working as an Assistant Professor at Surya Kumar Bhuyan School of Social Sciences, Krishna Kanta Handiqui State Open University

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