Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on human-nature relations in a remote nature-based tourism destination
Tourism and nature-based recreation has changed dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic. Travel restrictions caused sharp declines in visitation numbers, particularly in remote areas, such as northern Norway. In addition, the pandemic may have altered human-nature relationships by changing visitor behaviour and preferences. We studied visitor numbers and behaviour in northern Norway, based on user-generated data, in the form of photo graphic material that was uploaded to the popular online platform Flickr. A total of 195.200 photographs, taken by 5.247 photographers were subjected to Google’s “Cloud Vision” automatic content analysis algorithm. The resulting collection of labels that were assigned to each photograph was analysed in structural topic models, using photography date (relative to the start of the pandemic measures in Norway) and reported or estimated photographers’ nationality as explanatory variables. Our results show that nature-based recreation relating to “mountains” and “winter” became more prevalent during the pandemic, amongst both domestic and international photographers. Shifts in preferences due to the pandemic outbreak strongly depended on nationality, with domestic visitors demonstrating a wide interest in topics while international visitors maintained their preference for nature-based experiences. Among those activities that suffered the most from decline in international tourism was northern lights and cruises as indicated by the topic models. On the other hand, images depicting mountains and flora and fauna increased their prevalence during the pandemic. Domestic visitors, on the other hand, spent more time in urban settings as a result of restrictions, which results in a higher prevalence of non-nature related images. Our results underscore the need to consider the dynamic nature of human-nature relationships. The contrast in flexibility to adapt to changing conditions and travel restrictions should be incorporated in collaborativ.
PublisherPublic Library of Science
CitationMul E, Murguzur F, Hausner VH. Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on human-nature relations in a remote nature-based tourism destination. PLOS ONE. 2022;17(9)
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