An American professor caught in Sun Peaks during the isolation phase of the pandemic has released a book on the impacts of COVID-19 on the travel sector called Covid-19 and Travel Impacts, Responses, and Outcomes.
COVID-19 has devastated the travel sector, but there’s much to learn about how the tourism industry reacted and best practices moving forward, according to a new book authored by a professor who lived in Sun Peaks during the initial phase of the pandemic. COVID-19 and Travel Impacts, Responses and Outcomes covers why the pandemic and travel were inextricably linked, how the different sectors of the industry reacted to the crisis, leadership and communication strategies, and the social, economic and environmental impacts of the pandemic as they relate to travel.
Simon Hudson, a South Carolina tourism professor, was living in Sun Peaks during the start of isolation and the resort’s closure, and his book features a chapter on North American ski resorts closing over a weekend in March 2020.
“It was kind of eerie walking around with closed signs everywhere, everyone weary of each other,” Hudson said. “There’s obviously worse places to be stuck in lockdown but it was strange the first couple of weeks.”
It was apparent early on to Hudson that the tourism industry was going to be significantly affected by the pandemic so he began documenting what was happening around him. In a few short weeks, he had a book contract.
The pandemic caused major travel restrictions limiting the tourism industry with long-term implications as the rise of virtual and online technology began.
According to Hudson, as the industry continues to get back on its feet it may still see a continued decline in jobs due to the ongoing threats of future outbreaks, and anxiety around implemented travel restrictions and safety protocols.
Pre-pandemic, the tourism industry was increasing by five percent annually, said Hudson, making it one of the fastest growing industries in the world. It contributed 10 per cent of Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP).
Now, the pandemic is showing what a valuable role tourism plays in the overall economy.
“I’ve always felt we haven’t taken the industry seriously enough,” Hudson said. “I think what this crisis has shown is that tourism is significant to many, many economies all over the world but also it is fragile and it needs to be funded. It needs to be more resilient and it needs to be supported.”
Hudson also discussed the trickle-down effect impacting other industries.
“We’ve heard the grumbling of residents saying, ‘We don’t want tourists!,’” he said. “Without realizing that many industries are interconnected and if one industry is affected, others will be too. Just because they’re not involved in the industry doesn’t mean they won’t be impacted. They will be impacted. It will impact their property price, it will impact the price of food, it will impact the general economy.”
Many sectors, like festivals and events, were hit hard, which Hudson said he believes will be longer in their recovery while business events and travel may never return to their previous levels as people have become more comfortable using technology and virtual conferences from the comforts of their homes.
Despite many businesses implementing proper safety precautions, some are still reluctant to go out and spend their money at restaurants, hotels, and other destinations due to safety concerns.
Hudson said he felt the smart business were those who kept the lines of communication open, instantly setting up COVID-19 news sections on their website and keeping guests informed.
“Those destinations that kept communicating, we’re seeing them come out of this a whole lot quicker.”
Hudson shared Vietnam as one of the leading destinations because of how they dealt with the virus. As they have recovered they’ve reopened for destination tourism.
“They have very strong leadership,” he said. “People did what they were told, and they’re going to be recovering a little quicker than others.”
In the future Hudson said he feels the travel sector will rebound with a focus on reassuring travellers regarding health and safety and technology playing a major role.
“We’re already looking at cameras in hotels that can instantly detect temperatures and that makes customers reassured. We’ve got apps now that set off a beeper if you’re too close to someone, monitoring the traffic around people for social distancing purposes.”
Hudson shared he believed people will continue to embrace and adapt to the use of technology despite concerns of technology overtaking jobs.
The book is available from Goodfellow Publishers in paperback, hardback and for download at www.goodfellowpublishers.com.