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2024

Post-Covid hypermobile tourist practices facing environmental challenges

Les pratiques touristiques post-Covid des hypermobiles face aux enjeux environnementaux
Isabelle Frochot, Véronique Mondou et Philippe Violier

Résumés

Cet article vise à analyser les comportements et les choix en matière de tourisme des ménages considérés comme hypermobiles. À partir d’une analyse quantitative complétée par des entretiens qualitatifs, l’objectif est de comprendre les pratiques de cette catégorie de voyageurs : motivations, activités pratiquées, destinations choisies et leur évolution au cours du cycle de vie. L’analyse des données recueillies par le biais des entretiens permet de comprendre en profondeur le sens donné à ces mobilités touristiques. L’étude, lancée avant la pandémie de 2020, s’est poursuivie tout au long de la crise sanitaire, ce qui a permis de mesurer la façon dont les voyageurs se sont adaptés à la pandémie dans leurs choix de mobilités touristiques.

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Introduction

1Tourism has experienced a more or less continuous growth since the advent of mass tourism in the late 1950s. This increasing demand for travel has naturally gone hand in hand with the development of travel transport modes. Nowadays, tourism is part of individuals’ lives even though strong discrepancies exist across social classes in terms of access to holidays. Among travellers, some have a high holiday taking rate and, therefore, travel more than the average French tourist. In order to investigate this population, this study aims to document tourism practices of the most mobile individuals. More precisely, it aims to investigate: the meaning given to travelling, the destinations chosen, the means of transport used, the group composition, etc. The study aims to answer the following research question: what is hypermobility in France and how do hypermobile individuals travel today?

  • 1 World Tourism Organization.

2Some definitions encompass tourism in a vast set of undifferentiated mobilities (if following strictly the UNWTO1 definition), from business trips to university exchanges and pilgrimages, etc. For other researchers, the UNWTO definition is overly statistical and should be revised to define tourism as activities that are perceived by individuals as episodes allowing for recreation (in which case some of the tourists’ trips, defined in the strictest sense, do not correspond to this definition).

3In fact, tourism is a fundamental break that has unfolded within industrial civilization, which has allowed its development, in particular by solving the problem of distance which, in turn, has made its advent and deployment possible. The various stresses that weigh on individuals in their daily lives are increasing (for instance, the damage caused by the spread of digital technology and the blurring of the boundaries between private and professional life, the rise of illnesses and burnout, etc.). More than ever, tourism is a period of time, freely experienced, that allows individuals to refresh and restore themselves in places away from their daily routines (Elias and Dunning, 1994; Frochot and Lenglet, 2023; Team MIT, 2002). At the destination, services free individuals from organisational activities which take up free time such as the daily preparation of meals, looking after the children, etc. This tourist time has seen two expansions. On one hand, the duration of paid leave has increased access to holidays for workers and has led to mass tourism, a form of social progress that some authors also present as a cataclysm. On the other hand, the practice has become truly global with the access to tourism from populations in emerging countries (Violier et al., 2016; Violier, 2016). It is at times criticized by some who miss the time when Westerners only could travel around the world. The capacity to recreate oneself while on holiday is achieved through practices that vary according to the dispositions and skills of each individual (Guibert, 2016).

4The analysis of the behaviour of the hypermobile is based on the literature devoted to them and, more generally, to the issue of mobility(s) in our societies. Particular mention should be made of the work of Gössling, Ceron et al. (2009) which focuses on the mobility patterns of the hypermobile, both from a statistical point of view, and from a sociological perspective. They show that although the hypermobile are a minority among travellers, they account for a high proportion of all journeys. They also demonstrate that this category is increasingly made up of new social groups with diverse motivations, relating to visiting relatives, dual residency strategies, short breaks linked to the growth in low-cost offers, etc. The question of social status is also raised by Gössling and Stavrinidi (2015) who have highlighted two stimuli to hypermobility: a valuation of network capital that is all the more significant when the distance, frequency, and dispersion of journeys argues in favour of specific modes of transport and destinations; and the social glorification of mobility conveyed through the various media and tele-communication channels. Until recently, these stimuli particularly resonated with the elitism of tourism. The latter testifies to financial power and a superior social status as prerequisites for travelling without the frontiers of time and space. However, hypermobility can now be mass-produced.

5More broadly, some researchers place at the centre of their reasoning changes in contemporary societies and the importance of mobility in its many forms, which forms a system. This is summarised by the expression “mobility turn”, which refers, in particular, to the work of John Urry (Sheller and Urry, 2006; Urry, 2005, 2012). Referring to Pierre Bourdieu’s analyses of the concept of capital, mobility can be seen as a form of capital, a capacity to take advantage of a certain number of resources (Ortar et al., 2018; Lévy and Lussault, 2013). This can be referred to as mobile capital or spatial capital. The concept of mobility developed by Kaufmann (2002, 2004) refers to the ability of a person or a group to be mobile. It expresses, above all, a potential that may or may not happen, and can be defined as the way in which an actor appropriates the field of possible action.

6This work provides a broad definition of mobility and an understanding of its all-encompassing role, it has served as the foundations for the work we have conducted.

7In order to understand how mobility gives access to the diverse range of activities undertaken during holidays, the notion of practices is central. The typologies of practices make it possible to address the question of practices using a non-extensive approach. Five types of holiday practices have been identified (rest, play, discovery, sociability, and shopping) and they often appear in combinations (Team MIT, 2011). Most often, tourists do a bit of everything, and those practices are universal in the sense that all societies in the world display these types of practices (Taunay and Violier, 2015). However, there is usually a dominant way in which individuals practice tourism, which reflects the anticipated choice for a destination (either a place or a region) which has, according to tourists’ representations, the qualities they are searching for when booking a holiday.

8On another level, the destination also plays an essential role in tourism, since it is the quality of a destination, as perceived by tourists, that justifies the change of place (Team MIT, 2002 and 2005). Tourism academics have identified the push-pull dynamics: push factors are the elements that motivate consumers to go on holiday, while pull components are the elements, at a destination, that motivate choice (Dann, 1977). If individuals travel to a different place from home, it is because it represents otherness and guarantees a greater effectiveness of the deroutinization practice (Elias and Dunning, 1994), which is a foundation of recreation. This latter neologism describes the outcome for individuals after a tourist experience (Team MIT, 2002)

9Before presenting the results of our study, we will first present the methodological approach implemented, then we will show that the individuals interviewed are divided into a fairly wide range of practices, before then analysing the impact of Covid on those practices.

The methodological approach

10This article was written following a research project funded by the SNCF Institute for Research and Exchange, known as Forum Vie Mobile (FVM), which aimed to analyze the intentions of individuals living in France on their holiday behaviour, and to measure to what extent the environmental issue was likely to lead to a shift towards more sobriety. Launched before the outbreak of Covid, this study has necessarily been affected by the pandemic.

11The definition adopted in this study is that of the institutions, namely that any mobility within a time frame between one night and one year is considered as a tourist activity (UNWTO). As it has been demonstrated since the late 1990s (Stock et al., 2020), this definition has often been perceived as too extensive. Thereby, our research includes a qualitative part that has made it possible to differentiate what individuals consider as tourism and what they would rather consider as Visiting Friends and Relatives (VFR) or work. The data used in this study allows for a differentiation between personal and professional travel. Thus, it was possible to approach the concept of tourism, in the sense conferred by Knafou and Stock (2013), as a system that aims to recreate individuals by inhabiting outside everyday life locations.

12On the other hand, usually the presentation of tourists’ statistical data serializes individuals and movements but treats each tourist movement separately. By allowing us to access an undisclosed section of the results, the researchers were able to address all the individual practices carried out during the year 2019 in a global and systemic way (thereby accessing the holiday profile for the same individual over a year). According to the institute’s research objectives, the most mobile individuals only, described as the hypermobile, should be the target of the study. Knowing that multiple trips are the prerogative of the wealthiest, it was obvious for the sponsor to look to the wealthiest for being responsible for most greenhouse gas emissions. As a reminder, based on short stays from one night in duration, about 75% of people who live in France have so-called tourist practices in the institutional sense of the term (Violier et al., 2021). The frequency drops to 65% when considering only long stays. This does not mean that people who do not take holidays are excluded because if the economic dimension remains the main obstacle to taking holidays for people of working age, other reasons exist, for instance some are sedentary by choice, either during a given year or on a recurring basis (DGE, 2016). The constrained non-holiday takers are most probably around 20 to 25%, and not 35 to 40% as one sometimes read.

  • 2 Suivi de la demande touristique: monitoring tourist demand.

13To conduct our analysis, the institute provided significant funding allowing us to access the results of the SDT survey2 funded by the Directorate General of Enterprises (DGE) of the Ministry of Economy and Finance. This survey is carried out by the Kantar organization with 20,000 households living in France surveyed each semester regarding their tourist trips. It is, therefore, a reliable source of information on tourism practices (Cuvelier, 1998; Team MIT, 2002; Mondou and Violier, 2009). The researchers decided not to rely on the Mémento published annually since 1990 (which ceased publication after the final edition of 2018). The Mémento disseminates the main data on French tourism activity, but various limitations restrict the interpretation of those results.

14This step to the study corresponded to a quantitative analysis based on multivariate statistical processing to determine the profile of hypermobile travellers. Initially, the definition was based on the frequency of travel which was set at a minimum of 7 trips per year. Deciles are used to identify thresholds corresponding to a certain number of journeys. Here, in order to include the most mobile people in our sample, we have chosen the seventh decile. This corresponds to 7 journeys. Based on cumulative decreasing frequencies, this means that at least 32% of people who have made a trip (i.e., 77% of the total population) have made 7 trips in the year. In terms of propensity for hypermobility, the key criteria for the French population are determined on the basis of four main elements:

  1. the age at which hypermobility is characteristic at the peak of individuals’ professional career (tourist trips peak when individuals have their highest revenues: towards the end of their professional career);

  2. purchasing power for the highest per capita incomes in the household;

  3. the logistical constraint that includes the residence-destination distance and the duration of the trips undertaken;

  4. the main mobility reason (hypermobility presupposes flexibility in the management of the work-leisure trade-off).

  • 3 Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques.

15This step allowed the researchers to define the criteria for Kantar to set up a panel of 30 people to conduct semi-directive interviews (thereby constituting the third step). The qualitative analysis aimed to refine our understanding of hypermobile practices. The contacts targeted had the following profiles: 9 people corresponding to the “hyper mobile air” type, 13 people qualified as “hyper intermodal mobile”, and 8 as “hyper mobile car” (who used only this mode of transport). Unsurprisingly, these people have high incomes: 5,813 euros per month on average, which corresponds to 3.2 times the median income for a person living alone in France and 1.5 times for a couple with two children under 14, according to INSEE3. However, one individual had a very high income and when excluded from the sample, the average dropped to 4,979 euros, which remains higher than the median French income. A gender analysis could not be performed because people answered on behalf of the household and the sample included only three women living alone and earning the lowest incomes.

16The semi-structured interviews took place in June and July 2021, and their duration ranged from 45 minutes to 1h30. The interviews were integrally transcribed and the content was analysed. The researchers reached semantic saturation at about 25 interviews. The interviews brought an understanding of the meaning given to tourism practices and the value given to their associated mobilities. The modes of transport preferred by users was analysed by integrating a set of constraints (household location and composition, destinations, etc.).

Results

17The qualitative approach allowed the researchers to understand tourism practices from an innovative angle. Indeed, the statistics usually compiled by the Directorate General for Enterprises, based on its SDT survey, proceed to an economic approach that favours economic spinoffs (measuring economic impacts seems to be the main focus). In consequence, the practices are rarely approached from a wider angle. In opposition, this research focused on individuals and analysed their practices. The study was, therefore, able to picture the diverse experiences that tourists have throughout a year.

18Tourism practices were classified according to the most dominant and were ordered in descending order: 

  • Discovery largely dominates the practices expressed; it is the one most often cited, and it is so for almost all interviewees (only one person made no reference to it); it appears as the only dominant practice in most occurrences. On a few and rarer occurrences, it is mentioned in combination with others, such as: discovery/sociability, discovery/rest, discovery/physical activity.

  • Sociability, as interpreted by the interviewees, groups the range of connections with family and friends. As a result, it is frequently associated with visiting friends and relatives or a second home. In the majority of occurrences, it is cited alone, and in a few occurrences, it is mentioned in combination with discovery.

  • Rest or well-being are most often a single dominant practice, although are sometimes cited in association with other practices: with sociability and with discovery.

  • Physical activities are mentioned as the last main activity. It is usually an activity mentioned on its own, and, on rarer occasions, in association with sociability. We specify that this expression is used here to distinguish the behaviour of tourists who are considered to be playing (Caillois, 1958; Team MIT, 2002), from those of athletes who are engaged in competitions in the institutional sense of the term.

  • The practice of shopping is not mentioned by the interviewees.

19This diversification of practices within our sample is quite characteristic of the hypermobile. In the general population, the dominant practice is commonly associated with resting in conjunction with other elements, in combinations of varying complexity. However, the hypermobile tend to have an overrepresentation of discovery practices due to their educational levels, having less physically strenuous professions, and the revenue they have available.

20Professional mobility is in the minority and when it occurs, there is no “hybridization” with tourism practices (in other words, professional trips rarely combine with a tourist trip). Therefore, this term is debatable, because it is not a question of new mobility, as a new species would be the result of a mutation, but rather of the extension of certain parts of the trips made in a professional context (bleisure), financed by the company and, therefore, under the company’s control. The researchers prefer to name these episodes as tourist moments that take place during, or in conjunction with, a business trip. In any case, our investigation did not show the reality of the occurrence of bleisure trips.

21The diversity of practices is not surprising because tourism motivations are often multifactorial (Crompton, 1979; Frochot and Morrison, 2000), and because tourists can engage in very different tourism practices in the same year, and each of these practices will result in different trips and modes of vacation (treat oneself to a distant discovery trip, a stay in a second home, visiting friends for a weekend in a nearby destination, etc.).

The locations of practices

  • 4 France d’outre-mer.

22In the present study, the individuals interviewed were subdivided into three categories according to the types of destinations they visited during the reference year of 2019: international holidays combined with French holidays; France exclusively; and finally international and FOM4 (France Overseas) only.

A strong international propensity with variable boundaries

23Within existing statistics, international tourism does not necessarily imply crossing a significant distance. The international tourism definition “simply” implies the crossing of one border so it can encapsulate distances of various lengths. However, in our sample of the hypermobile, international tourism practices were most often associated with distance. Moreover, the hypermobile demonstrate a broad range of tourism practices, mixing domestic and international tourism (Figure 1).

24In addition, when compiling the variety of practices expressed by the sample (and no longer individuals), these show that France continues to be the main destination. Thus, Figure 1 below shows that only four individuals have a sum of practices that are carried out mostly internationally (7, 17, 21 and 24). Nine individuals have experienced the same number of practices internationally and in FOM, as in France (they are located along the bisector indicated in red). The 17 others, who are the most numerous, have had most of their tourist experiences in France.

Figure 1. The distribution of destinations between France and international-FOM (France Overseas)

Figure 1. The distribution of destinations between France and international-FOM (France Overseas)

This graph reads as follows: each blue circle has two coordinates, one for the French destination, the other for the International/FOM destinations. The size of the circle is proportional to the number of individuals with identical coordinates. Thus, the individual 24 (top) is positioned according to the coordinates: 2 practices within France and 4 internationally/FOM.

Sources: interview data. Conception: V. Mondou, I. Frochot, Ph. Violier.

25The combination of France with International/FOM destinations largely dominates. This point is noticeable since international demand for the average French holidaymakers amounts to only 26% of the population (DGE, 2019). The hypermobile, therefore, have a much greater propensity to travel abroad or to FOM than the average person living in France. However, the choice of international destinations does not prevent the hypermobile also travelling in France for tourism reasons, although this concerns a minority only.

26Among those who combine the two destination categories, the majority travel abroad for reasons of discovery, and other practices characterize holidays in France. In particular, sociability, defined here as meeting relatives and friends, often takes place naturally within France with a predominance of second homes or family homes. However, when families leave France, sociability then involves international tourist trips. Hence, two exceptions appear for individuals who have relatives abroad. For instance, Mauricette regularly visits (each year for a long stay) one of her children who has settled on Reunion Island (map 1). This mobility, initially induced by the mobility of the family, becomes recurrent and is also categorized as being for pleasure and well-being. Moreover, when travelling to Reunion Island, Mauricette and her husband rent accommodation so as not to disturb the lives of their children and grandchildren. For them, discovery was not excluded and to avoid paying the prohibitive local car rental price, they purchased a car to enable them to visit the island and its surroundings (Mauritius). Another of their children lives in French Polynesia and they also visited him in the same year.

Maps 1 & 2. Mauricette’s travels in 2018/2019 and 2020

Maps 1 & 2. Mauricette’s travels in 2018/2019 and 2020

Mauricette’s profile: retired; in a couple; 3 children (Rennes, Reunion Island and French Polynesia).

27Map 1 shows the practices and the destinations visited by Mauricette and her husband in 2019. It marks a strong propensity for international travel, although it does not totally exclude France, where trips are limited to a long stay (3 weeks) in a medical spa in Cambo-Les-Bains and a short-stay in Paris.

It all depends where you go on vacation because if it is Paris, it’s going to be much more intellectual, much more museums, exhibitions, theatre… (Mauricette)

28The year 2020 led this interviewee to refocus on France, except for an escape to Reunion Island. Map 2 (in 2020) shows the reduction in Mauricette’s tourist destinations when faced with the restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 crisis.

29The increase in tourist mobility, therefore, reflects the fact that sociability (visiting friends or family) induces international travel. For instance, Annie visits her daughter living in Amsterdam at least once a year. Similarly, Catherine takes advantage of the presence of her daughter in Lisbon, enrolled in medical school, to visit Portugal:

My daughter has settled there... we booked an Airbnb on our own. We looked at everything we could visit, then we had our picnics on the beach at noon, a restaurant in the evening. We made the most of the trip. And then after Lisbon, we booked a rental car and we also took ferries and trains because it was easier to travel around. (Catherine)

30Discovery is, for Catherine, the leitmotiv, wherever she goes:

When in a resort, we are totally relaxed, we have nothing to do, just to visit; and then we have a side holiday where we move, for example to the family home or friends, and there we take our own transport and we take the time to cook meals, we also undertake various site visits, but it’s different. (Catherine)

31For Catherine, the resort selected in 2019 was in Egypt. It was a combination of rest (at the resort) and discovery (thanks to various excursions). Above all, what accounts for this internationalization is the existence of a network of parents and friends. In addition to her daughter settled in Lisbon, her mother-in-law lives in Italy, and she has friends based in Croatia and Amsterdam. She paid a visit to them all in 2019.

32The spatial proportion between France and international destinations is well suited to the search for experiences and practices. For instance, Lysandre (map 3) is divided between discovery, for which the international dominates, with the exception of the Riviera, and sociability, which flourishes in France, between welcoming grandchildren in her second home in inner Brittany, inherited from her parents, and maintaining contact with relatives. In 2020, the reduction is drastic with a polarization on the second home, used more specifically to welcome grandchildren (map 4). Muriel’s tourist area follows a similar pattern with a dominance of international discovery, without excluding France (Marseille), versus sociability in France, and again, an exception with an invitation to Barcelona for a wedding.

Maps 3 & 4. Lysandre’s travels in 2018/2019 and 2020

Maps 3 & 4. Lysandre’s travels in 2018/2019 and 2020

Lysandre’s profile: retired; in a couple; 2 children (Conflans-Saint-Honorine, Paris region).

33For Bruno (map 5), the score is even clearer: international travel is associated with discovery, with an impressive range of destinations, including various treks. Holidays in France are focused on sociability (Lyon several times, Metz, Doubs), and also on discovery (Lille and Cannes). Discovery is not limited to international destinations, but it is exclusive, while holidays in France focus on sociability. In 2020, the contraction is obvious even if some international travel away from France did take place (map 6). Similarly, physical activities (winter sports have essentially been mentioned in this case) are mainly undertaken in France, while discovery is rather carried out abroad and in FOM.

Maps 5 & 6. Bruno’s travels in 2018/2019 and 2020

Maps 5 & 6. Bruno’s travels in 2018/2019 and 2020

Bruno’s profile: lives alone and has a partner; no children.

When tourists stay in France exclusively

34When France is the only destination, practices are varied but discovery still dominates. For example, Berthe (map 7) describes family practices as follows:

So, for example, 2 years ago we went on holiday to Normandy to see the D-day landing beaches and museums because our son is passionate about Second World War history... in the summer before Covid, we had done... itinerant holidays where in fact we had been to every place that corresponded to the desires of the children. So, we went to Parc Asterix because the little one wanted to. We visited the Puy du Fou, because our third child wanted to. We visited the zoo at La Flèche because that was the desire of our second child. And for the eldest, we... visited… I can’t remember. (Berthe)

35For this respondent, holiday choices are established according to the desires of the children; the idea of a progressive spatial discovery that begins with France is clearly affirmed. In addition, Berthe specified that since the family lives near the sea all year round, they do not feel the need to visit seaside destinations during their holidays. This observation is in line with the analysis (DGE) that highlights that the rate of holiday departures is somewhat lower for individuals living in tourist regions. For this family, the first international travel, scheduled for 2020, which was supposed to enable the children to discover French Polynesia, the place where their parents first met, was postponed due to the pandemic (map 8).

Maps 7 & 8. Berthe’s travels in 2018/2019 and 2020

Maps 7 & 8. Berthe’s travels in 2018/2019 and 2020

Berthe’s profile: in a couple, 4 children (10, 12, 13 and 15 years old), travelled extensively abroad before the children were born.

36Although discovery practices can take place in France, other practices dominate, in particular for Éléonore (map 9), who visited the Loire Valley in 2019 and twice visited Lyon and Normandy for reasons of sociability, as well as Haute-Savoie where her parents’ second home allows several holidays in different seasons. This French polarization is due to both to the family composition (two children, 5 and 9 years old) and to modest income (Éléonore is a single parent who earns 2,400 euros per month, half the median of the sample). In 2020, tourist trips took place in France, but they were fewer in number (map 10).

Maps 9 & 10. Éléonore’s travels in 2018/2019 and 2020

Maps 9 & 10. Éléonore’s travels in 2018/2019 and 2020

Éléonore’s profile: divorced female, 2 children (5 and 9 years old), among the lowest incomes in the sample.

Tourists who only choose International + FOM destinations

37One single individual, Maurice, organized all his tourist trips internationally (map 11). Maurice travels mainly for discovery (Santorini, Namibia, South Africa) but also for sociability purposes, (Washington and New Caledonia). His income is very high, higher than all the others (30,000 euros per month). He is a professional footballer, and his wife is a flight attendant.

Maps 11 & 12. Maurice’s travels in 2018/2019 and 2020

Maps 11 & 12. Maurice’s travels in 2018/2019 and 2020

Maurice’s profile: in a couple, 2 children (3 and 6 years old), has the highest income in the sample.

38In 2020, Maurice was “forced” to discover France, but he managed to find an international destination that remained opened to international travel (Sardinia) (map 12).

The destination choice: a trade-off between constraints and desires

39While most of the individuals in the sample have significant resources, a few interviewees encounter financial constraints which could limit their travelling choices. Those individuals are resourceful and identify solutions to be able to travel. For instance, Éléonore, a single mother, is very restricted in her holiday choice by her financial resources:

Financially, it is very difficult for me. I have been already abroad, but I almost never travel internationally... if I travel, it’s in France. (Éléonore)

40Mélanie who travels in France with her children (camping by the sea), ventures abroad thanks to low-cost airlines and, presumably, thanks to the support of her partner, with whom she does not live on a daily basis. Mélanie declares a personal income of only 1,300 euros per month (the lowest amount in the sample).

41However, other respondents deploy alternative forms to ease the cost of travelling. With limited resources, they resort to arrangements that allow them to travel abroad. For example, Gabriel exchanges his home, which allows him access to free accommodation, in exchange for the provision of his own house.

42Marcel emphasises the social dimension of low-cost airlines since they promote the practice of discovery through city-breaks, and this has allowed him to discover many European capitals. In addition, the visit to Krakow carried out in 2019, was offered as a present by his daughter.

43The practice of sociability also induces routes and crossroads, for example, Flore specifies:

Considering that we also visited friends in Orléans, it must have been three weeks in total: two and a half weeks because we had to do two weeks in Brittany and then we had to stop at our cousins’ house on the way out, if I remember correctly. Yeah, that’s what we did two short stays related to the big stay, the Vendée for the outbound, Orléans on the return. (Éléonore)

44Flore and her partner are both teachers and, therefore, have more flexibility in terms of holiday length, although they are constrained by the school calendar. In addition, they live in Saint-Etienne, so going through Orléans or the Vendée is not prohibitive.

45Individuals who own a second home have access to places where they can rest at a lower cost (at least now, because at some point in the past, for those who have not inherited, they would have had to pay for it). Others benefit from a quasi-secondary residence in the sense that it belongs to their parents who let them have it free of charge. Other consumers make choices to the advantage of their children. For instance, within the sample, Marthe and her husband never attend their second home in Les Angles during the winter ski season so that their children and grandchildren can enjoy it.

The meaning given to mobility: a break from everyday life

Cutting free from daily life: a necessity for discovery to take place

46The meaning of tourism practices lies in the change of location that makes it possible to implement practices, whatever they may be. Unsurprisingly, the study points to a real need for rupture:

Just a little more freedom, to change your daily life a little bit, and decor too, to be more, by the sea, the countryside... We are very urban, very urban. So, it’s also to change a little the atmosphere, be in a quieter place, less noise... In general, at the destination, we do not do much, except walking, going to restaurants, etc. But we don’t go to the destination to do a particular activity. (Johnny)

47Holidays are about getting away from it all (Frochot, 2021) and, for some, it implies a complete change of scenery and activities:

My objective is to enjoy the holidays, to discover, to change daily life, to practise activities that we do not have the time, nor the leisure, nor the daily life to do. (Flore)

48Getting away implies cutting free from the countless sources of stress in daily life, it is only once tourists have left behind their daily life that they become more available for their holidays and that they contemplate engaging in new practices:

Once we’re gone, we’re on vacation and we sit down, total disconnection and then it’s the pleasure of moving while there, having found excursions, it’s the excitement, we always wanted to go, then we go… (Catherine)

49The practice of discovery contains, in itself, the change of place; it allows tourists to engage in a positive confrontation with otherness:

It’s going to be more about discovering a place, the visits, the sites, natural or cultural. So, it’s more, yes, the interest of discovering a place that we do not know. In general, this is what motivates us… So, it is a means of escape, of rest too, of pause in everyday life, of rest, of discovery. Discover places you don’t know, gastronomy, culture, change your mind, have fun, relax. (Hildegard)

50Muriel visited Cuba in 2019 and her desire to discover the world was powerful, coupled with a willingness to be surprised by what is new to learn and confront: “Absolutely, discovery... cultural discovery... discovery of landscapes, culture. That’s it, it’s going to see what we don’t know” (Muriel). A holiday expectation also mentioned by others: “So… already to see something else, to know something else, other countries, other cultures, other people, to then discover, discover” (Maurice).

51This desire for discovery can be so strong that some tourists even managed to travel abroad through the pandemic. For instance, in winter 2020, Muriel managed to book a holiday to Sardinia with the primary objective to get away; a desire to escape reinforced by the drastic lockdown protocols: “One of the few places still open at Christmas where you could escape, and escape this horrible curfew... This was really an idea to escape in December, yes” (Muriel).

52Discovery can also be understood as being surprised by another culture, with serendipity, and at a sustained pace:

Because it’s a cultural richness for me, it’s meeting other people, so yeah, other cultures, other ways of doing things, of living, the beauty of places that we don’t know, or that we know, but that we are always amazed to see again. And then also change from the daily routine, it is to do something else. Yeah, it’s not necessarily having a rhythm, or, and then, yeah, letting yourself be carried away. (Muriel)

53For her part, Judith confides:

I’ve always loved travelling. When I was very young, I must have been maybe ten years old, I wanted to be a flight attendant. A flight attendant because for me this is someone who was travelling. That’s it, so the flight attendant makes a lot of trips to a lot of countries, she visits a lot of things. This is far from reality, but in my dream, it was that.

54The practice of discovery seems to be part of the family habitus, but it can also be a desire for parents to give to their children travelling opportunities that they have not benefited from themselves:

OK, and when you had your child, you changed your destination?
– Yes, precisely to make him discover, because precisely I did not really have the opportunity to travel with my parents when I was a child. So, I want him to discover a lot of things. (Therese)

The break is also necessary for the quality of the rest

55Travelling to another destination also allows for the creation of different conditions from the usual place of residence. A trip makes it possible to meet different conditions that are not necessarily met at the place of residence, for the holiday to provide a truly resting and transformative experience (Frochot, 2021): “A desire for a change of scenery, a desire to be able to land away from home and change air” (Henry).

56A search for calmness, conducive to resting, sometimes involves developing an avoidance strategy from the busy tourist spots:

So, let there be less demand. That is, I will never go to the mountains in the winter, I will go to the seaside. We went not far from Saint-Tropez and Sainte-Maxime in February. And in summer, we go to the mountains... not necessarily very, very far, but I also like to go a little further to feel this change of scenery. (Marguerite)

57Overall, the results from this study strongly corroborate research conducted in tourism studies, particularly on motivations. The break with everyday life remains an essential pillar of holidays, a necessary break to cut with the various responsibilities and rhythms of everyday life. Travel, especially travel abroad, reinforces this expectation of a cut-off break. Through the diversity of encounters, landscapes, and cultures, it allows consumers to distance themselves even further from their daily lives while allowing them to satisfy a desire for discovery (Lehto, 2013).

Physical activities lead to less far-reaching mobility

58The physical activities mentioned in the study tend to point to the mountain area, whether during the winter for skiing, or in the summer for hiking. But these practices are implemented at shorter distances and mainly in France, even for the hypermobile accustomed to international destinations. Those physical activities are, in fact, only accessible in areas that have strong natural features and offer a very different scenery and experience-scape to usual places of living. The physical activity is important but sometimes not as much as the different environment it gives access to, even if it is within France.

59Marguerite, who lives in Marseille, has easy access to the mountains in the Alps:

… and in summer, we go to the mountains... not necessarily very, very far, but I also like to go a little further to feel this change of scenery. (Marguerite)

60Another example is Charlene, who lives in Annonay, and takes her family to the Savoy region in the summer to go hiking.

61Overall, in the sample studied, few respondents expressed a choice of travel practice related to activities that engage the body.

Evolution of practices

62The interviews with respondents also focused on the evolution of long-term tourism practices.

63More than half of the interviewees take more holidays. Overall, people indicate a growth in their practices over the course of their lives: more and more trips are undertaken, and more distances are covered. This evolution is linked to growing older, which is generally correlated with an increase in income, the decrease of mortgage costs, and also in the departure of children from the home. In other words, the evolution across the life cycle frees up available resources and time as people get older. This result is not surprising since the financial aspect classically remains the first factor limiting the rate of departure on vacation. In addition, access to retirement also implies an increase in time available. However, this upward trend can be counterbalanced by a loss of autonomy or appetite for mobility when one reaches old age. It is not possible from our qualitative study to set a threshold, both because of the small number that composes its sample, and because the Kantar sample provides a breakdown by age group. However, only one retired individual reported a reduction in his practices due to both age, and also as a result of a rich and fulfilling personal travelling history: 

For the moment we have no trips planned outside Western Europe, my wife has less desire to do so. We have seen what we wanted to see... [and to quote:] Vietnam, India, Mexico, twice in Egypt, China, Morocco, Tunisia... (Henry)

64Several interviewees, on the contrary, mention a stability in their practices. For some of them, the pandemic explains this stagnation. But the pandemic does not imply a complete change of holiday practices; the interviewees are keen to keep on travelling but have been left with no choice but to postpone the holidays planned abroad.

65For instance, for one family, a trip to French Polynesia was scheduled, it has necessarily been adjourned but will be carried out as soon as possible. However, this family had so far had a practice essentially focussed on France, showing an eagerness to discover France, and also a desire, driven by the young age of their children, to push them to seek “simpler” holidays purely from a logistic point of view:

Until now, we were quite fond of holidays in France because the children were quite young... when they were smaller it was also good to discover France. And from a practical point of view, it was simpler, but we have planned on going on bigger trips when they are older. (Berthe)

66The choice of destination for the postponed project of this family (Polynesia) was motivated by the fact that this was where the parents had met.

67Sometimes the stability of holidays (choosing the same type of holiday every year) is a habit that consumers can be strongly attached to. For instance, Charlene who lives in Annonay, is accustomed to hiking in the mountains every summer, but in 2020 she tried a holiday by the sea and concludes:

It’s not that we did not like it but putting your towel on the sand and doing nothing except swimming is different than the mountains. (Charlene)

68For two individuals, the change is qualitative. It concerns the nature of the practices without this inducing more holidays or covering a greater distance. Thus, in response to being asked about holidays changing over the course of life, Juliette indicates:

Necessarily, when the children were little, we did more holidays which were adapted to them so that they could enjoy it too. So, it was less cultural, it was, effectively, more a change of scenery. We went to either the sea, or to the countryside, or other places. And then after, when they were gone, or grown-up, we increased the cultural dimension of the holidays...

69For others, it is the choice of the mode of accommodation, again without changing the number of trips, and the importance of the distances covered:

It is just having a child that has changed the way we travel or organize stuff at the destination. When we’re on our own, we don’t care, we take our bottle of water and then we go with the flow. (Catherine)

Conclusion

70Two conclusions are complementary: using, on the one hand, the vocabulary of management sciences, and on the other, of social geography.

71For the first approach, we understood that summer holiday habits would resume their course in 2021. We envisaged that tourism consumption would be even higher in the coming years (unless purchasing power is strongly impacted). First of all, a rebound is always observed in tourism consumption in any post-crisis period. Secondly, tourism consumption is probably the most resilient of all consumptions (the oil crisis of the 1970s, or the financial crisis of 2008, ultimately, had a very small impact on tourism consumption). Thirdly, and this is probably the most impactful factor, the pandemic has triggered a profound questioning of contemporary lifestyles. The possibility of teleworking, a renewed interest in so-called natural spaces, and the questioning of lifestyles under pre-pandemic pressure are all elements that have pushed citizens to reformulate the foundations of their lives. In response, a healthier life, with more time available, and living at a slower pace are among the new personal demands. In this new world of possibilities, holidays have reinforced their importance in consumers’ lives. Synonymous with socializing opportunities, quality time, resting time, a healthy distancing with everyday life, they are an integral part of these new life expectations. This demand is not necessarily systematically synonymous with international travel (even if French consumers already had growing desires for international destinations), it can also be revealed in trips within France, but most certainly tourism will retain, and, most probably, take an even bigger place in individuals’ lives in the future.

72For social geography, tourism is a fundamental practice that has allowed the deployment of industrial civilization, by organizing a recreation of individuals subject to the pressures of work and social constraints. Deroutinization is achieved through practices (discovery, play, sociability, rest) that flourish over time and in dedicated places. Hypermobile individuals are distinguishable among tourists by a strong emphasis on discovery and international destinations. However, France is not excluded from their choices, both for discovery and for other practices. The importance of the tourism issue for individuals implies that the Covid pandemic has not had the effects that some expected, and even that they were happy about (notably Bourdeau, 2020). The need for a spatiotemporal rupture is commensurate with the constraints that industrial civilization is increasingly placing upon individuals.

73Thus, it is possible to assume that the sobriety sought due to climate issues could be approached on a double condition. On the one hand, that proximity offers solutions especially in regions that are markedly out of step with the social values attributed by society to landscapes, attributes, and objects... and which reflect the disparities in tourist choices. In other words, redefining otherness in nearby destinations will require a shift in mentality to consider the value of domestic tourism as also providing discovery. Otherwise, some form of house arrest will be required. On the other hand, tourism is also the result of various pressures on individuals and especially time available to travel. Should we not redefine society with a distribution spread more evenly at a lower level and give more flexibility to agendas? As a result, more sober forms of tourism would be possible, such as longer stays at equal distance that would ban short city-breaks, or resort to means of transport that are less efficient but very energy-intensive and are producers of greenhouse gases.

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Notes

1 World Tourism Organization.

2 Suivi de la demande touristique: monitoring tourist demand.

3 Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques.

4 France d’outre-mer.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1. The distribution of destinations between France and international-FOM (France Overseas)
Légende This graph reads as follows: each blue circle has two coordinates, one for the French destination, the other for the International/FOM destinations. The size of the circle is proportional to the number of individuals with identical coordinates. Thus, the individual 24 (top) is positioned according to the coordinates: 2 practices within France and 4 internationally/FOM.
Crédits Sources: interview data. Conception: V. Mondou, I. Frochot, Ph. Violier.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/tourisme/docannexe/image/6689/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 81k
Titre Maps 1 & 2. Mauricette’s travels in 2018/2019 and 2020
Légende Mauricette’s profile: retired; in a couple; 3 children (Rennes, Reunion Island and French Polynesia).
URL http://journals.openedition.org/tourisme/docannexe/image/6689/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 95k
Titre Maps 3 & 4. Lysandre’s travels in 2018/2019 and 2020
Légende Lysandre’s profile: retired; in a couple; 2 children (Conflans-Saint-Honorine, Paris region).
URL http://journals.openedition.org/tourisme/docannexe/image/6689/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 87k
Titre Maps 5 & 6. Bruno’s travels in 2018/2019 and 2020
Légende Bruno’s profile: lives alone and has a partner; no children.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/tourisme/docannexe/image/6689/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 116k
Titre Maps 7 & 8. Berthe’s travels in 2018/2019 and 2020
Légende Berthe’s profile: in a couple, 4 children (10, 12, 13 and 15 years old), travelled extensively abroad before the children were born.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/tourisme/docannexe/image/6689/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 106k
Titre Maps 9 & 10. Éléonore’s travels in 2018/2019 and 2020
Légende Éléonore’s profile: divorced female, 2 children (5 and 9 years old), among the lowest incomes in the sample.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/tourisme/docannexe/image/6689/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 78k
Titre Maps 11 & 12. Maurice’s travels in 2018/2019 and 2020
Légende Maurice’s profile: in a couple, 2 children (3 and 6 years old), has the highest income in the sample.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/tourisme/docannexe/image/6689/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 87k
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Isabelle Frochot, Véronique Mondou et Philippe Violier, « Post-Covid hypermobile tourist practices facing environmental challenges »Mondes du Tourisme [En ligne], Articles, mis en ligne le 20 mars 2024, consulté le 28 mai 2024. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/tourisme/6689 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/tourisme.6689

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Auteurs

Isabelle Frochot

Maître de conférences (HDR) en sciences de gestion
Université de Bourgogne, CREGO
Isabelle.Frochot[at]u-bourgogne.fr

Véronique Mondou

Maître de conférences en géographie
Université d’Angers, UMR CNRS 6590, ESO – Espaces et Sociétés
veronique.mondou[at]univ-angers.fr

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Philippe Violier

Professeur émérite en géographie
Université d’Angers, UMR CNRS 6590, ESO – Espaces et Sociétés
philippe.violier[at]univ-angers.fr

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