VOLUME III – December 2022
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Sailors’ Problems Caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic


After more than one and a half years of the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be said that it has affected virtually all areas of human life. Although this is not the first health crisis in the times of humanity (Kilbourne, 2006; Madhav et al., 2017; Huremović, 2019), it is the most serious in a hundred years and absolutely the first that has affected the inhabitants of all continents so much (Strielkowski, 2020; Gallego, Font, 2020). The strength and value of the modern world – the high mobility of societies and the blurring of borders – suddenly became its weakness.

COVID-19 caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 began as an epidemic on November 17, 2019, in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, Central China (Ma, 2020), and on March 11, 2020, it was recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a pandemic (WHO, 2020). The COVID-19 virus usually spreads by airborne droplets, spreading from person to person through respiratory droplets released during, for example, coughing and sneezing or simply talking (Zhang et al., 2020). It can also spread by touching contaminated surfaces and then touching your face. The specificity of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is that it spreads quickly between people, mainly because many people show no symptoms at first and may not realize that they are infected (Wang et al., 2020; Chang et al., 2020).

Travel for business and leisure purposes is considered one of the main contributors to the virus’s rapid spread (Innerarity, 2021). In order to control the spread of COVID-19, countries have started to introduce various restrictions, including tourist traffic (Chica, Hernández, & Bulchand-Gidumal, 2021; Chinazzi et al., 2020). Until 2019, the tourism industry was developing very dynamically (Telfer, & Sharpley, 2015; Du, Lew, & Ng, 2016; Hącia, 2019). Worldwide, nearly 334 million people were employed in this sector, and tourism accounted for 10.4% of global GDP (US$9.2 trillion) (WTTC, 2021). Pandemic and related restrictions almost stopped tourism. In the first half of 2020 alone, international arrivals dropped by 74%, and destinations worldwide welcomed 1 billion fewer international arrivals than in the previous year. The collapse in international travel represents an estimated loss of USD 1.3 trillion in export revenues (UNTWO, 2021).

Restrictions were also introduced regarding other areas of economic activity (including trade, fitness and, beauty) and cultural activities (e.g., closing theatres, cinemas, museums, cancelling concerts and other mass events), which worsened the situation economics of many people (Skeel, 2020; Nicola et al., 2020).

Forced lockdown, confinement at home, and lower-income for many people began to worsen mental health (Probst et al., 2020; Lippold et al., 2020). A tourist trip has often become a dream that must be adapted to the new reality to be realized. Ensuring the safety of participants of the trip and restrictions introduced by various countries could be perceived by tourists as difficulties during the trip.

The article concerns nautical tourism, which according to the definition by T. Luković means: the navigation and stay of tourists –sailors on vessels (yachts, recreational small crafts and boats for both personal use and commercial activities, and the like), as well as their stay in the ports of nautical tourism for rest and recreation (Luković, 2013). So, the article assumes that nautical tourism is related to voluntary voyages on yachts and recreational small crafts and boats for personal use and commercial activities, which take place outside the place of permanent residence, as well as related to staying in the ports for rest and recreation (Butowski, 2018).


It is a form of tourism that has been dynamically developing throughout Europe in recent years, increasing the number of its participants (Alkier, 2019; Rindone, 2019). According to the European Commission statistics, sailing was practiced by over 36 million people in Europe. In total, in all European yacht ports (over 4,500), even 70,000 people could be employed. People (European Commission, 2016). Spinelli and Benevolo claim that: nautical tourism plays a vital role in the economic development and in the social and environmental sustainability of coastal tourist destinations (Spinelli & Benevolo, 2021). It directly contributes to the developing of services and technical, communication, and social infrastructure (Hącia & Strulak-Wójcikiewicz 2018).

What is very important, nautical tourism is one of the forms of active tourism, with specific features that, when considered in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning that it can be considered relatively safe and characterized by a low risk of contagion. These features include, first of all (Łapko, 2021):

  • the ability to easily limit contact with people from outside the crew and the impact on the composition of the crew, resulting from the fact that sailing cruises are usually organized independently without the intermediation of travel agencies,
  • great independence from catering and hotel facilities, resulting from the equipment of yachts on which cruises are carried out,
  • possibility of flexible planning of the cruise route,
  • in many cases, travel to a departure port is organized on your own, using your own transport, that gives much independence in the event of restrictions on the use of public transport or the suspension of specific air and rail connections. It also reduces the risk of contamination on the way to/from the port.

However, its cultivation has also been affected by various restrictions regarding, among other things, crossing borders, functioning of yacht ports, or service facilities located therein.

The article aimed to show which of the restrictions and limitations imposed in connection with the pandemic were the most burdensome for the participants of nautical tourism. Due to the topicality of the topic, they should be considered very important. According to the authors’ knowledge, this is the first study on the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on nautical tourism, which was conducted on a large scale – covering several European countries.


The survey was conducted in February and March 2021 using the CAWI (Computer Assisted Web Interview) survey. This data collection technique is often used due to the broad access to the Internet in Europe, allowing for quick responses. This technique is also safe during a pandemic and limited personal contact. It has also been used in surveys of respondents’ opinions on issues related to tourism and travels (Buffa et al., 2018; Monaco, 2018; Lubowiecki-Vikuk & Dryglas, 2019; Rech & Migliorati, 2021).

The survey form was made available on Croatian, French, German, Italian, Polish, and Turkish sailing forums and Facebook profiles of sailing associations. So, the participants were people who actively took part in nautical tourism and recreation. The survey forms in the six language versions were distributed by Facebook and posted on sailing forums and association profiles. This was considered the best way to reach European nautical tourists. Sailors are a hermetic group of people who prefer to focus on various thematic clubs and are now active on the Internet. 580 completed forms were collected during this time (107 Croatian, 29 French, 263 German, 40 Italian, 88 Polish, and 53 Turkish – figure 1). Among the respondents, there were 35% of women and 65% of men. These shares were slightly different in particular age groups (Figure 2). The share of women decreased with the age of the respondent. Hence, the median age of the surveyed women (46 years) was lower than that of men (52 years) compared to the value of 50 years for all respondents.

Figure 1. Percentage of respondents participating in the survey by country – Source: own study

Figure 2. Percentage share of respondents participating in the study in particular age groups, taking into account gender – Source: own study

The article presents the results of a study based on two survey questions. The first question, ‘What observations did you make during your cruises in 2020?’ was a mandatory one, in which it was possible to choose more than one answer. On the other hand, the second question, “Which pandemic restrictions were the most onerous for you?”, Was an open-ended question, and no answer was required. However, it was possible to provide several different aspects of the onerous restrictions. In total, the respondents gave 465 answers here. Due to the freedom to formulate the answers, assigning the answers to 10 proposed categories was necessary.

The answers to both questions of the survey concerned mainly the percentage shares of people giving individual answers (question 1) and the number of answers obtained, which constitute groups according to the proposed categories (question 2). At the same time, observations were made within individual countries of the respondents’ origin. Some country-specific trends have been identified. However, no particular dependencies were observed between the answers given and the gender or age of the respondent. Therefore, it is worth expanding and deepening research in this area and there are specific trends in global nautical tourism, the analysis of which goes beyond the purpose of this article.


The analysis of the respondents’ answers to the survey questions proves that the sailing season 2020 was exceptional – only 16% of the respondents said that they did not notice any changes during the cruise. Sailing was associated with adapting to the applicable restrictions to minimize the risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus during a tourist trip. Sailors were often forced to give up or modify their behavior, which had been evident to them during the voyage. The restrictions concerned the operation of ports, as well as service facilities located in or near them. The most frequent answer among the respondents was the observation regarding the more challenging use of catering services in the port area. Due to the epidemic threat, catering establishments were closed to visitors and could only sell food “to go” in many countries. Some respondents noticed that it was more challenging to provide the yacht (6%). They were mainly respondents from Poland, where the so-called “Hours for seniors” – only people over 60 can do shopping from 10 am to 12 am and that could be a problem when the yacht called at the port for only a few hours. Different countries have introduced different restrictions on the functioning of ports (they have also changed over time). In some periods, the ports were closed entirely; in others, limits on visitors were introduced. A strict sanitary regime was applied everywhere as the principle of social distancing. This was noticed by respondents who noticed that sailors in the port area tried to avoid close contact with other people (30%) and used various types of personal protective equipment (masks, gloves) and used disinfectants available in the port area (34 %).

Most likely, the restrictions in force, people’s fear of being infected, and often the disease itself caused some people to give up the cruise in 2020, so as much as 37% of respondents noted a smaller number of yachts in the ports visited.

Figure 3 shows the answers to the question What observations did you make during your cruises in 2020? along with an indication of the percentage of how many people gave each answer.

Respondents answering this question could also provide their Respondents answering this question could also provide their answer, used by as many as 9% of respondents, mainly from Germany and Poland. Polish and German sailors noticed the delay at the beginning of the season (yacht ports were closed in April and May). German sailors also pointed to the reduction in the number of available sanitary facilities in the visited ports. Respondents answering this question could also provide their own answer, which was used by as many as 9% of respondents, mainly from Germany and Poland. Polish and German sailors noticed the delay at the beginning of the season (yacht ports were closed in April and May). German sailors also pointed to the reduction in the number of available sanitary facilities in the visited ports. Respondents answering this question could also provide their own answer, which was used by as many as 9% of respondents, mainly from Germany and Poland. Polish and German sailors noticed the delay at the beginning of the season (yacht ports were closed in April and May). German sailors also pointed to the reduction in the number of available sanitary facilities in the visited ports.

An interesting observation reported mainly by Polish and German sailors was that there were more yachts than usual in some ports (mainly located on the Szczecin Lagoon, a cross-border reservoir). That could be due to restrictions; people did not travel abroad and spent their holidays in the country. That is what 3% of respondents answered, in contrast to 37% claiming fewer yachts. Other observations shared by the respondents in this open question were: many yachts standing on the roadstead and the lack of regattas and other sailing events.

Figure 3. Percentage of people giving individual answers to the question: What observations did you make during your cruises in 2020? – Source: Own study

In order to facilitate further analysis, in line with the adopted methodology, the answers to the second question were assigned to 10 categories (I – X), which group similar aspects of the constraints occurring in connection with the pandemic. The characteristics of the proposed categories are presented in Table 1.

Table 1. Characteristics of the categories grouping responses to the question ‘Which pandemic restrictions were the most onerous for you?’

Category Name Assigned responses
Category I Travel problems Closed borders, problems with moving within the country, cancelled / postponed flights, the need to perform COVID-19 tests, the need to undergo quarantine
Category II Personal protection equipment The need to wear masks, the need to disinfect hands, the need to buy disinfectants, the need to use protective gloves
Category III Social distance Limits of board crew, the need to maintain the required social distance, the need to limit meetings with friends and extended family, the need to avoid meetings with representatives of other crews in ports, remote contact with port staff
Category IV Delay in the start of the season No possibility of sailing in the first part of the season, no possibility of working to prepare the yacht for the season, closed yacht ports
Category V Closed restaurants Closed restaurants, cafes, pubs, clubs and taverns in the marina and its immediate vicinity
Category VI Nothing Responses indicating that the respondents sympathized with the restrictions intended to protect their health. There were also answers that the restrictions were not bothersome, only everything had to be carefully planned
Category VII Closed sanitary facilities Closed toilets and showers in marinas or reducing their number
Category VIII Cancelled events Canceled regatta, scheduled cruises, no possibility to participate in events at yacht harbors, no nightlife, closed museums, canceled concerts
Category IX Price increase Higher prices of yacht charter, increase in the yacht management, maintenance and repair costs, increase in the cost of living, fluctuations in currency changes, increase in fuel prices
Category X Uncertainty Uncertainty about frequently changing regulations, mainly regarding quarantine and border-crossing rules. Also, uncertainty whether the planned flights will take place and uncertainty about the means of transport chosen for arrival / departure (mainly frequently canceled flights)

Source: own study

Figure 4 presents the answers to this question quantitatively, broken down into categories.

Figure 4. A numerical representation of the answer to the question ‘Which pandemic restrictions were the most onerous for you?’ – Source: Own study

Travel restrictions, especially closed borders, were definitely the most severe for the respondents. Free crossing of borders has become something obvious. Many reservoirs (especially maritime ones) are transboundary. It is natural for sailors that they cross (often many times) national borders while sailing. For various reasons, some of the respondents (mainly of German nationality) complained about the lack of access to their yachts, which are kept in Polish or Danish ports in winter. The respondents also complained about the need to perform COVID-19 tests and quarantine after crossing the border. Quarantine was often the reason why foreign travel was abandoned.

The use of personal protective equipment, which was required in ports, was also burdensome for the respondents. Most people complained about the necessity to wear protective masks – this concerned sailors from Croatia, Poland, and Germany.

The respondents were bothered by the need to maintain social distance. For many sailors, meetings with other crews in ports are a great attraction. In 2020, however, it was necessary to avoid such meetings. The respondents also complained that they could not meet with their closest friends. Many Polish sailors considered the regulations introduced in May 2020 and binding for a month, stating that only people from one household may be on board.

Respondents from Germany and Poland complained about the closure of yacht ports in April and May 2020. Due to this, the preparatory work for the season was difficult. Yachts could not be launched, and ports were closed to both visitors and residents. That resulted in a two-month delay in the start of the season in these countries. Later, when the ports started operating, certain restrictions were introduced in Germany regarding the availability of services and sanitation. The sailors complained about the inability to use the toilet and showers in the ports where they were calling.

However, among the respondents, some accepted the applicable restrictions with understanding, considered them justified, and did not perceive them as burdensome. One-third of the responses that no restrictions were onerous came from Turkish respondents since nautical tourism, which developed a national marketing strategy with the concept of not transmitting corona at sea, isolated from land and crowd accepted as ideal for family holidays in Turkey. Furthermore, it has provided a safe holiday opportunity for family members or friends, and relatives (Arlı & Bayirhan 2021; Arlı, 2020). When looking at the Turkish participants’ profiles in the study, they are mainly the local tourists or sailors who have their own boats and enjoy their holiday renting yachts keeping their distance from the others. They can organize their own holidays or self-organized tours free from any yacht or tour operators. They do not need to search for accommodation or restaurants on land to spend their holidays. There were also no strict restrictions for those who would like to spend their holidays on their own boats or yachts as long as they obeyed the restriction rules on land and went outside at certain times. Therefore, the restrictions and crossed borders are not a big problem for them. The most severe restrictions also included the closure of catering establishments operating in or near the marina. Only Italian and French respondents did not report it as a nuisance.

Some of the respondents from Germany, Poland, and Croatia considered the lack of events as severe. Poles and Germans complained about the canceled sailing regattas and fairs. They also pointed out that some of the planned voyages did not come to fruition. On the other hand, Croats complained about the lack of parties in the ports, closed nightclubs, and no possibility of having fun. The most disruptive was the increase in prices, mainly provided by Turkish respondents (out of 16 responses, only one was from a respondent of a different nationality). The management of cruise yachts, one of the essential subsectors of marine tourism and a significant inflow of foreign currency to countries, was also negatively affected by the COVID-19 crisis. They play an important role in the tourism promotion of Turkey and are in high demand. From the research conducted, it is clear that marina and yacht operators, in particular, have been severely affected due to the economic conditions, the increase in costs, and the Turkish currency’s unstable fluctuation against the Euro and the Dollar.

Uncertainty was placed last among the limitations mentioned. It is not a limitation in itself but it relates to a particular feature of the introduced restrictions, namely their unpredictability. The situation in all countries changed very dynamically. Depending on the number of cases, the restrictions were introduced or relaxed with immediate effect, which made it difficult to plan anything.


The Covid-19 pandemic affected almost all countries and businesses operating in nautical tourism at the world level. Undeniably, the Covid-19 outbreak has considerably impacted maritime communities in terms of business and financial and social operations. Despite the negative impact on the country’s economy and well-being, the pandemic is also forcing the industry to respond more quickly to disruptions and develop better long-term strategies to deal with uncertainty and implement more sustainable operations. This study examines the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on nautical tourism in some European countries presenting a post-pandemic situation. The conducted research proved that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the sailing season 2020 was exceptional. Sailors from various European countries observed a lot of deviations and changes resulting from the epidemic situation, and some of them were very burdensome for them. It is mainly about the restrictions introduced (at the level of countries and regions) to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The presented research shows that only Polish and German sailors had problems delaying the start of the season, and only German sailors experienced inconvenience related to the limited availability of sanitary facilities. Turkish sailors mainly complained about the increase in prices.

Regardless of nationality, however, the most severe restrictions were those restricting the freedom to travel. Closed borders, canceled flights, quarantine, and the need to perform coronavirus tests – these restrictions are difficult to accept for people who have been moving around Europe for years without any restrictions. As the specificity of sailing tourism, life in ports is as important as swimming, making it very painful for sailors in 2020 to limit meetings with other sailors, reduce the number of crews, the need to resign from meetings in restaurants, taverns, and pubs, and parties and games in nightclubs.

Countries should develop a more resilient tourism economy by preparing plans to support sustainable tourism recovery post-Covid-19. The tourism sector suffered the most during the Covid-19 outbreak and required a carefully planned strategy to mitigate it. Therefore, government support should be coordinated to ensure the capacity building and productivity of the key tourism actors. Tourism stakeholders should lead many initiatives for nautical tourism to promote domestic tourism, as this will be the only safe option until the end of the pandemic.


The authors would like to thank Martina Müller for her help researching among German sailors.


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Cite this article

Łapko A., Hącia E., Strulak-Wójcikiewicz R. et al. (2021) Sailors’ Problems Caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic. EATSJ - Euro-Asia Tourism Studies Journal, Vol.2, ( November 2021 ). https://doi.org/10.58345/GERN8550.

Received: | Accepted: | Published online: 28 November 2021
Volume: 2 | Issue: November 2021 |

DOI: https://doi.org/10.58345/GERN8550

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Aleksandra Łapko (Corresponding author)
Maritime University of Szczecin, Poland


Ewa Hącia
Maritime University of Szczecin, Poland


Roma Strulak-Wójcikiewicz
Maritime University of Szczecin, Poland

Kevser Çınar
Necmettin Erbakan University, Turkey


Enrico Panai
Department of Humanities and Social Science (DUMAS) University of Sassari, Italy


Lovorko Lučić
Adriatic Services Ltd. – A.Y.A, Yacht Agency

Sailors’ Problems Caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic by Aleksandra Łapko, Ewa Hącia, Roma Strulak-Wójcikiewicz, Kevser Çınar, Enrico Panai, Lovorko Lučić is licensed under Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International