The conclusions of the study, conducted by Catarina Gouveia and Cláudia Seabra, researchers at the Center for Studies on Geography and Spatial Planning (CEGOT), classified safety as “a fundamental factor to consider in the recovery of the tourist industry”.

The authors added that the Covid-19 pandemic had a very significant effect on the perception of safety for the practice of various tourist activities.

Risk perception

“In global terms, tourists indicate a higher perception of risk for the practice of all tourist and leisure activities, especially those practiced in closed or small spaces, that is, with greater gatherings of people, especially amusement or theme parks, concerts and shows, sporting events, urban/historical centres, shopping in shopping centres and streets, casinos, nightclubs and nightlife venues”, said Cláudia Seabra.

Conversely, activities related to nature, such as sports or trips to the ocean and river beaches “despite the negative impact of the pandemic, are still considered less unsafe activities”.

Visits to art galleries, museums and monuments and going to restaurants “are also activities considered less unsafe, although the perception of safety has reduced after the pandemic”, stressed Cláudia Seabra.

The study involved 320 tourists who visited the Centre region over seven months - between November 2020 and May 2021 - the majority (98.4 percent) of Portuguese nationality.

“It was clear that the impacts of the pandemic were severe for Central Portugal, one of the most diversified regions in terms of tourism in the country, which, until the beginning of 2020, was booming. The results indicate that tourists in Central Portugal have changed their habits, especially with regard to the type of accommodation, security and transport used in their trips”, underlined Cláudia Seabra.

Change in habits

Before the pandemic, the most used accommodation by respondents was hotels (23.8 percent), followed by friends and family (18.8 percent), local accommodation (16.6 percent) and rural tourism (12.2 percent) but with Covid-19 “the situation has changed”, noted the CEGOT researcher.

“Most study participants now prefer their own home, local accommodation and the homes of friends and family, confirming the importance of domestic tourism in this uncertain phase,” she said.

The hotel, “which was previously the type of accommodation preferred by tourists, since the pandemic has becomes less suitable”.

And at the level of transport used to travel to holiday destinations within the country, “the car remains the preferred means, but following the pandemic, with much greater expression than the plane or the train”, maintained Cláudia Seabra.

The new normal

Thus, in view of the pandemic context, the study predicts that “nature destinations, without crowds, where travellers can find small hotels and arrive in their own car”, should become the most sought after places by tourists in a post-Covid-19 era.

The authors concluded that the results provide “important clues for the managers of tourism organisations to readapt their marketing strategies, in order to regain the markets of this region in the post-pandemic context”.

“The branding of these destinations must be strongly based on the safety factor and the communication strategies must take into account the new habits of tourists, focused on more exclusive and individualised accommodation and on activities of leisure associated with nature and visits to museums, monuments and galleries”, concluded the UC researchers.