Incredible. Just as we enter the worst period of prolonged recession for I don’t know how many years (20?, 50?, ever? It depends on who you read or listen to) placing our industry under pressure from all sides, we follow it up for good measure with the threat of a good old fashioned flu pandemic. Great.
Nothing is likely to put people off travelling than images of face masks and 24/7 media coverage of pandemic risk alerts (currently at level five, bring a sweater). Grave-faced reporters—well. they may be grave faced, but it’s a bit difficult to see behind the masks—extolling the potential number of fatalities. Do I detect a hint of excitement behind their eyes?
Anyway, this now means that even half a sneeze on the Tube is guaranteed to provoke a wholesale emptying of the carriage. Come to think of it, that might be an excellent way of getting a seat. What impact will that have on the hotel industry? Not a positive one, that’s for sure, although it may displace some of the business from city centre hotels to the regional ones, a much needed shot in the arm for all those smaller, independent hotels.
One of the more interesting effects of the London bombings in 2005 was a substantial lift in occupancy levels in rural areas, matched by a big lift for London in 2006 by all those who wanted to come the year before, but didn’t feel safe. We all remember foot-and-mouth disease and SARS, so to some degree we are on familiar ground. With modern air travel being what it is, perhaps this is the shape of things to come and we should expect more such incidents?
Either way, one hopes that it will be over quickly and we can carry on carrying on. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.