‘I Just Want to Go Home’: Emotional Wellbeing Impacts of COVID-19 Restrictions on VFR Travel

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The COVID-19 global pandemic has had a profound impact on the taken-for-granted familial connections bound up in VFR travel. This paper examines the emotional impacts on diasporic migrants who could not travel to their homeland for extended periods of time. It considers pre-pandemic VFR patterns and assesses new meanings attributed to post-pandemic renewed travel. The lived experiences, patterns and emotions of seventy mainly UK-based participants were examined in this study. The research approach used both Maslow’s hierarchy of needs analysis and Urry’s tourist-gaze as conceptual frames for assessing these emotional experiences. The research showed that for many diasporas, the need to travel home is central to a sense of personal and place-identity as well as emotional security. The impacts of the pandemic in terms of wellbeing and emotional health were keenly felt by study respondents. Furthermore, contrary to much prior VFR research, this pandemic related study showed that in this instance, it is the “people” of VFR rather than just the “place” (of home) that are most valued. The removal of the right to VFR travel reinforced the centrality of family connections, especially in times of crisis. A mindful, VFR gaze emerges, rooted deeply in Maslow’s basic human needs pillars of safety, love and belonging. This was shown to be a highly tuned post-COVID-19 gaze, where familiar touchstones of home helped to restore depleted emotions through performances and practices of connectivity. The unique global pandemic experience of a world full of migrant mobile diaspora brought to an abrupt halt, emphasizes the need for tourism research to focus on the emotions embedded in the inherent human-place connections of VFR travel. The longitudinal-temporal legacy of COVID-19 on this form of tourism requires future research attention for both the tourism industry and tourists themselves.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberhttps://doi.org/10.3390/tourhosp3030039
Pages (from-to)634-650
Number of pages16
JournalTourism and Hospitality Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jul 2022


  • VFR
  • home
  • identity
  • COVID-19
  • emotional aspects
  • Maslow's hierarchy of needs
  • diaspora tourism
  • tourist gaze
  • wellbeing
  • mindful gaze
  • connections


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