There is presently much chatter about “revenge travel” as the industry anticipates a post-lockdown boom in travel, although the world is far from post-Covid. The concept of “revenge spending” arose in the 1980s in China to characterise consumer spending as the economy liberalised and grew after the Cultural Revolution. In May 2020, a consumer-sentiment survey by McKinsey revealed consumer confidence returning post-lockdown. Consumers prioritised eating out and travel; their research suggested that domestic travel increased 60% in just two weeks. Travellers were cautious, staying close to home, preferring to travel by car or rail.
Covid has not reduced the desire to travel. Still, it has shifted priorities with travellers booking self-contained accommodation, often to share with extended family and friends, and preferring to travel by car or camper van, with flexible and last-minute planning. This summer, self-contained accommodation is at a premium and hard to find. There has been a big increase in sales of caravans and campervans. Goboony is a marketplace offering campervans hired out by private owners, Airbnb for go where you please campervans. Staycation is now used with two different meanings, originally coined to refer to day trips from home it is now widely used to refer to domestic tourism.
VisitScotland is encouraging staycations, slow travel, eco-holidays, wellbeing and wellness, and nature-based experiences. They are also promoting workcations, “if you can work from home you can work from anywhere now.” Visit Scotland wants “to inspire Scots to travel responsibly once current restrictions ease; encourage them to tread lightly in the places they visit and educate visitors on responsible actions to ensure tourism remains a sustainable industry, well into the future.” There is a significant investment in countryside rangers, new parking, visitor interpretation, upgraded and accessible toilets, and new facilities to help manage motorhomes.
Revenge travel is used to describe strong consumer demand; it emerged to explain behaviour in China but is now used more widely. Revenge describes a harmful act against someone we have a grievance against. The idea of revenge is the very antithesis of slow responsible travel; tourism boards and marketers are pursuing responsible tourists.
In Ireland, RTE published advice for their listeners, with the government continuing to advise against international travel, it is inevitable that this summer will see an internal migration en masse to our coasts. It is a good time to think about how we might staycation in a more responsible manner this summer. Be friendly with the locals, be considerate of nature, be safe, spread the load, sound intelligent to your friends: maybe avail of those locally-led biodiversity walks and events, take time to read the heritage boards, or simply chat with the locals over the hedge. “It doesn’t hurt to be friendly, kind, and considerate to both your hosts: Nature and communities.”
Visit England has produced a series of cartoons to encourage more responsible behavior, although I have not seen any being used yet.
In the Lake District campers leave behind tents, empty bottles and sleeping bags. At Thirlmere the Lakes Plastic Collective removed 13 bin bags of rubbish. A ‘motorhome code of conduct’ has been introduced in the Lake District. Demand for motorhomes soared during the pandemic. The new code, set out on the Visit Lake District website, asks visitors to plan their route and respect their surroundings: “most of all, think like a local, we are asking visitors to value and support our local communities and take the opportunity to explore them, using local farm shops and eateries and, when safe, visiting attractions.”
Even during the Covid pandemic the fact that tourism is a polluting industry has been obvious. Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, says: “What residents saw here in the Lakes and the Dales the last time the ‘stay at home’ message was relaxed last Summer was absolute carnage. “Inconsiderate parking led to chaos on the roads and on some occasions, emergency service vehicles were unable to get passed. Litter and dog mess was left to clutter up paths and pavements. Farm gates were left open, fires and BBQs led to damage to the local wildlife, and the household water supply polluted. There were people camping overnight playing loud music into the early hours and other anti-social behaviour.
Anticipating a huge increase in domestic tourism to rural areas with limited capacity to handle mass tourism and with lots of visitors unfamiliar with the norms of behaviour in the countryside and without access to toilet facilities, destination managers are aware that it is going to be a difficult season. Many countryside residents and traditional rural holidaymakers will feel the harm; overtourism will be inflicted on areas ill-equipped to cope. Our countryside will be the innocent victim of revenge tourism.