Covid-19 is a disease caused by the coronavirus that leads to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). It first emerged in China in late 2019 and soon led to a global lockdown in the spring of 2020. Medical guidelines focused on limiting mobility and avoiding close contact with others. This had a severe impact on the tourism industry as travel and mobility were heavily restricted. While the pandemic is a global health crisis, it is not specifically a tourism crisis, though it has had a significant impact on the entire industry.

Tourism severely affected

The pandemic led to a significant decrease in international travel, which resulted in the largest decline in the number of trips since World War II. Prior to the pandemic, the growth in travel had been exponential in the 21st century, with occasional dips or plateaus, such as after the September 2001 attacks, SARS in 2002-2003, and MERS in 2005. This decline, however, was much more severe and widespread, affecting all regions of the world (Ill. 1).


Ill. 1. The whole world is affected. Collapse of tourist traffic in all regions of the world (in the WTO sense)? (source: Espaces no. 367, July-August 2022)

The duration of the crisis is another challenge, as the pandemic is not yet over at the time of the publication of this entry (late September 2022). The WHO Secretary-General has suggested that there may be an end in sight in the autumn of 2022, but the situation in France is worsening, and China’s borders are still closed. It remains to be seen when the crisis will fully end.

Rampant rhetoric

During the pandemic, many unfounded assertions have been made, revealing a form of anti-tourism that is expressed every time the tourism industry faces a setback. For example, Michel Maffessoli stated his satisfaction at the end of tourism and the return to the travels of bygone days (2020), while Philippe Bourdeau (2020) saw his anti-tourism views finally being confirmed.

The health crisis has implemented some of the anti-tourism agenda by emptying tourist places and grounding planes. It remains to be seen if the economic crisis will further decrease tourism and lead to post-tourism based on alternatives such as leisure activities, personal development, and community engagement. It will depend on the political decisions made and whether they prioritise a sustainable transition or consumerism that does not challenge the lifestyles of the wealthy.

Philippe Bourdeau in Espaces no. 355, July-August 2020

In a less extreme view, some analysts predict an increase in nearby destinations, whereas this has long been a reality for many people, either by choice or for financial reasons. The idea of “post-tourism” was also raised, as it was believed that the crisis would fundamentally change the tourism industry. However, it appears that things are returning more or less to normal, and any changes observed are more like accelerations of existing trends rather than radical new developments. Working from home is an interesting example as it may change the dynamics of certain tourist destinations where the number of active residents has already increased.

In fact, the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a de-globalisation and a return to closed borders, but every time the situation improves, especially during the summer, the tourism industry picks up again. Furthermore, in a qualitative survey on this subject (Frochot et al., 2022), people express their desire to resume their travel adventures as soon as possible. Some even took advantage of the opportunities to get away, travelling to Sardinia in 2021. Today, after two years of restricted mobility or confinement to one’s home country, international travel has resumed strongly, with high demand for travel abroad. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has had some impact, but it is relatively limited. Tourism is proving to be quite resilient, in line with the idea that it has a purpose in industrial civilization (Violier, 2022). Tourism is not dead, and it can clearly change and engage in a new revolution (Violier et al., 2016; Knafou, 2021).

The debate on sustainable tourism

As the pandemic wanes, discussions have arisen about the future of tourism in the context of climate change. This has prompted a renewed focus on the ongoing debate about sustainable tourism.

Philippe Violier and Philippe Duhamel


  • Bourdeau Philippe, 2020, Espaces, Tourisme et Loisirs. n°355, p. 69-72.
  • Frochot Isabelle, Bates Samuel, Mondou Véronique et Violier Philippe, avec la participation de Christophe Gay et Anne Fuzier, 2022, «L’après covid-19 a un air de ressemblance troublant avec l’avant», Espaces, Tourisme et Loisirs. n° 367, juillet-août, p. 16-21
  • Knafou Rémy, 2021, Réinventer le tourisme. Sauver nos vacances sans détruire le Monde. Paris, Éditions du faubourg, coll. «Essais», 128 p.
  • Maffesoli Michel, 2020, «Le tourisme moderne est mort. Vive le tourisme postmoderne!», Espaces, Tourisme et Loisirs. n°355, p. 52 à 56.
  • Violier Philippe, Clergeau Cécile, Duhamel Philippe et Guibert Christophe, 2016, «La Troisième Révolution touristique», Mondes du tourisme. hors-série, n°12.
  • Violier Philippe, 2022, «Pourquoi il faut prendre le tourisme et les touristes au sérieux», Espaces, Tourisme et Loisirs. n°367, juillet-août, p. 10-14.