By Pieter de Wit

My last getaway was a surf trip back in February with one of my best friends. Under normal circumstances, my girlfriend and I had planned to go to France in June to hike the Tour du Mont Blanc.

But due to the coronavirus, we had to postpone this trip until next year…hopefully! During the lockdown, I couldn’t work for a couple of months so I can’t really say I need a ‘well-deserved’ rest. However, facing the same environment for half a year, being separated from friends and family and not being able to have fun, has only served to hype-up my longing for an escape and to travel again.

I feel like I need to compensate for the time lost and take ‘revenge’ on the virus. Apparently, I am not alone in this! It’s not a new concept, and revenge spending has occurred before and might cause a spike in travelling as soon as travel restrictions are lifted. 

A History Lesson

Revenge spending is the behaviour of consumers emerging from isolation, spending more money than they did before. The concept first appeared at the end of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, a sociopolitical movement from 1966 until 1976 that drove the country into extreme poverty. Its end resulted in increased consumer demand in the 1980s, as the people’s sense of liberation stimulated their desire to compensate for the 10-year oppression.

The same was seen more recently in Japan, following the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. After facing a tragedy, many people choose the ‘carpe diem’ way of life and spend money frivolously. 

Although history never repeats itself, it often rhymes very well. China was hit first by the coronavirus, and it was the first to recover economically. As early as March, China saw revenge spending already happening. It’s unlikely that this will make up for all the lost sales. Still, many industries are breathing a sigh of relief as they witness a rebound in consumer behaviour. 

The Lucky Few

The luxury sector seems to benefit the most from revenge spending. But the corona-crisis was not an economic crisis, to begin with. People could still buy goods online, contributing to the growth of e-commerce. The pandemic resulted in a social crisis where, due to the lockdown, people were separated from their family and friends and could not go out, have fun, explore or travel. 

According to well-known consultancy firm McKinsey & Company, when a lockdown ends, travelling is number two on people’s spending list, preceded only by eating out. Those who can afford it are eager to splash their cash on luxury travel, targeting popular destinations before they get overcrowded with tourists again. 

Unfortunately, though, it’s not all sun, sea and cocktails. The crisis will inevitably leave many companies bankrupt, and countless people unemployed, struggling to even pay their rents. Holidays may be an unattainable dream. Many people will need to focus first on their own recovery before considering unnecessary expenses. Forecasts show that the vast majority of travellers see their next trip as being domestic and are opting for short city-breaks instead of long-haul flights. 

Staycations are very much in trend.

My Own Revenge

For me, personally, it has been a financially challenging year. As a self-employed personal trainer, I had to close my business for a few months, and now recovery is slow as Europe is still in the midst of the crisis. I have had to dig into my savings account to cover my costs, but, thankfully, overall, I have managed my finances pretty well. Nonetheless, as a travel lover, I really want to just go out and explore! I feel the urge to break free from my home surroundings, escape to the great outdoors and shout ‘freedom’ from a mountain top! 

Even when the opportunity does arise, my revenge will be financially modest. As soon as the crisis is over and travelling is allowed again, I will take my postponed trip, while keeping a strict eye on my budget. 

Revenge spending is a real social phenomenon. And because of local and international travel restrictions during the lockdown, a wave of ‘revenge tourism’ might flood the globe as soon as the pandemic is deemed over. Those who can afford to book their tickets first will benefit from visiting popular places in serenity before the crowds of tourists arrive. Those who felt the hit economically will need to adjust their travel plans according to their new budget or postpone until they’ve fully recovered from their financial losses. 

I will have to travel on a tighter budget than I’m typically used to, but I can still count on my savings to help me take my revenge on the virus. I will continue my travel adventures on this beautiful planet with a new appreciation for my freedom. I hope you do too!