As with my previous notes on this issue of 24th and 30th January I am loathed to accidentally set hares running around Corona Virus. However, as it becomes increasingly clear that a UK domestic outbreak could occur, I feel obliged to repeat my two previous pleas and add a third:
- If you have not already done so, do consider undertaking some sensible, basic low-profile contingency planning, even if it only something as simple as say checking that key event cancellation policy would cover you under various circumstance from declared national pandemic, through to a localised outbreak. Are the physical and economic tourism impacts being considered in any local emergency planning that may already be taking place? I am confident that most local planning already has contingencies for flooding in the local housing estate, but is quarantining a major hotel or hotels or accommodating large numbers of sick guest locally something destination all already plan for? Better to ask and know now, when it isn’t an issue than to have to find out in a hurry, if and when it becomes one.
- The impacts on inbound and increasingly outbound domestic international travel are largely self-evident and relatively easily quantified by say counting journeys taken, bookings made or cancelled with or via a relatively small number of very large airlines, travel operators etc. The impact on the domestic tourism industry isn’t as self-evident and it isn’t as easily or critically so quickly quantifiable. We do however have indisputable historic evidence that in every other similar circumstance of an incident within the UK (terrorism through to Foot and Mouth), the impact on the much larger and wider spread domestic tourism industry is at least as great if not far greater than that on the inbound sectors. If you have opportunity to remind colleagues of this in any planning meetings, local or national government forums etc. please do so. I have been making this point when and wherever I can but perhaps not unreasonably in the circumstance, the immediate focus always falls back on the here and now problems of the inbound industry. The key message is that if there is a serious outbreak in the UK now or as could well happen at any time during the coming 3 to 12 plus months, domestic tourism will take as big or bigger hit and need as much if not more support than any other tourism sector.
- The new ask. Given it is more difficult to quantify the impacts on the domestic market quickly, rather than waiting until we are asked for anecdotal or hard data, can you please consider keeping your ear to the ground (as I know you all do anyway) and reporting any soft or hard evidence of Corona Virus impacts specifically on the domestic market to me. I can then report this as and when necessary to colleagues working at national level. I am of course also open to reports on international tourism impacts too. I do recognise that the collection and subsequent usage of such information needs to be handled with great care, if we are to avoid it becoming a self-fulfilling exercise with or without an outbreak attached to it.
Apologies, if this appears to be teaching granny to suck eggs. I know the majority of you will be way ahead of me already. For those who aren’t or can’t, I hope it gives you the external evidence you may need to encourage others to start allowing you to react now before the event; an event that looks increasingly more likely today than it did a month ago when I first dared to start mentioning it.