The COVID-19 pandemic has changed people’s mobility needs and social habits, which is visible especially now that the restrictions have been lifted. 52% of Romanian participants in a survey conducted by FREE NOW, a European platform offering taxi and ridesharing in Romania, say that they are still hesitant to return to their pre-pandemic lifestyles, and another 24% say they are still avoiding making plans to go out. However, almost two-thirds of them feel the need to catch up on experiences postponed during the pandemic.
Romanians consider themselves to be very sociable people, as almost half of respondents say in the FREE NOW survey, but even among those, 24% said they want to socialize less than in 2019, as a post-pandemic effect and because they are still concerned about limiting the spread of the virus. In addition, one in two participants said they had canceled their plans to go out in public since the restrictions were lifted due to social anxiety.
Despite the reluctance regarding socializing, 62% of Romanian participants in the FREE NOW survey say they feel the need to catch up on activities that were limited during the pandemic. Among these, what they missed most during the pandemic was traveling (48%), meeting family and friends without restrictions (47%), social gatherings for recreational purposes (37%), going out shopping without restrictions (25%) and attending cultural events (25%). Parties, attending music festivals or big concerts and sports events were also on the list of activities they would like to catch up on now. 13% of Romanian respondents missed socializing with colleagues at work, an interaction which, as a result of the pandemic, has increasingly become mediated by technology.
”People who have strictly complied with the rules during the pandemic tend to continue to maintain the same behavior for a number of reasons. Fears about their own and their family’s health have become so rooted in their everyday attitudes that they have even come to believe that breaking the rules still carries the same risks as during the health crisis. In addition, during the pandemic, they improved their personal time management, thanks to the hours saved by giving up commuting between the office and home, and also made their financial costs more efficient, and these things weigh heavily in the balance when considering a return to their pre-pandemic lifestyle”, says Nicoleta Musat, clinical psychologist.
Moreover, the pandemic has influenced Romanians’ travel habits. In this regard, among the top activities that trigger Romanians’ anxiety is traveling using public transport (30%), the appearance reflected in other people’s behavior that things are ”back to pre-pandemic times” (30%), as well as the fact that people no longer respect the rules of social distancing (25%) and no longer wear masks (23%), besides traveling long distances or abroad (15%).
”Romanians can be characterized as sociable people, as they identify themselves, so that is why they have felt the lack of activities specific to their pre-pandemic lifestyle in the last two years. It is recommended that the resumption of daily activities should be done gradually, with the maintenance of those protective measures that help them feel safe and protect them from anxiety”, continues the psychologist.
When it comes to urban mobility, the main criteria that still influence Romanians’ mobility preferences are safety, price, comfort, hygiene, and speed. Thus, every fourth Romanian ranked ridesharing and car-sharing services first when it comes to choosing an urban mobility option, followed by taxis (12%) and micro-mobility options, such as scooters, mopeds, or bicycles (11%).
”At FREE NOW we observe that Romanians are getting back to their pre-pandemic lifestyle. The number of taxi and ridesharing rides over the past weeks is increasing at a stable pace. We see that getting back into the habit of going out or attending social events is taking some time for some people. We, at FREE NOW, continue to care about the safety of passengers who choose our mobility options and we promote safe trips through ridesharing or taxi options, because, we hope, this is how we can support users and their decisions to adopt the lifestyle they want”, says Daria Marinescu, Head of Marketing FREE NOW Romania.