U.S. professor writes book on COVID-19 impact to tourism while on lock down at Sun Peaks - InfoNews

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U.S. professor writes book on COVID-19 impact to tourism while on lock down at Sun Peaks

Simon Hudson, part-time professor at the University of South Carolina wrote a book around the impacts COVID-19 had on global tourism while at Sun Peaks during the pandemic.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Simon Hudson
August 09, 2020 - 7:00 AM

It wasn’t Simon Hudson’s intention to write a book about the impacts COVID-19 has had on the world’s tourism industry while vacationing at Sun Peaks, but the pandemic quickly changed how he spent his time there.

In March, when COVID-19 restrictions first began in B.C. and ski resorts shut down early due to the pandemic, the University of South Carolina part-time professor was enjoying a vacation at the ski resort before moving to Portugal.

“(My wife and I) were really looking forward to the last month where we can sit outside and chill and then this hit and to me, having been involved with travel all my life, it was clear this was very significant, not just in terms of impact but the way that travel was influencing the virus, the reason ski resorts closed down because infections were so high in ski resorts,” he said. “It was like a domino effect, as soon as they closed (in America), Whistler closed.”

He thought “we’ve seen nothing like this, it needs to be documented,” so he put in a proposal for a book. The book, Covid-19 and Travel Impacts, Responses, and Outcomes, was published in June as an e-edition and is now available for purchase in print format. 

The book covers several important topics including why the pandemic and travel were inextricably linked, how the different sectors of the industry reacted to the crisis, leadership and communication strategies employed by the industry during the crisis, and the social, economic and environmental impacts of the pandemic as they relate to travel.

Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Simon Hudson

He expects the impact on the global tourism industry will continue past the end of the pandemic, he said, adding that countries should be focusing on their domestic tourists.

The ski industry was a bit like the cruise industry, which had an impact on how the virus was spreading, he said.

“We had workers in Sun Peaks who were going over to Australia and testing positive over there and it was similar to cruise ships, unknowingly really at that time… Now of course governments are tracking and tracing but at the time it was a realization for me that wow we’re in the thick of it here,” he said.

The key is communication, not just to skiers, but to stakeholders, he said, adding that Sun Peaks Ski Resort did a good job of that.

He also complimented Destination B.C., which used the right tone of messaging and were quick to request for tourists to stay away, Hudson said.

Other places carried on as usual to their detriment, he said.

“Communication, leadership, go hand in hand,” he said, adding the ability to adapt is also important as it was clear from the beginning of the pandemic that business will not return to normal.

Canada’s messaging was more consistent and leaders have given messages in a calm, collected manner. For comparison, in South Carolina, there was so much mixed messaging with President Donald Trump which has an impact, he said.

The pandemic is a wake up call for countries to realize how important tourism is, and it needs to be resilient and sustainable.

“There’s certain destinations, products and services that won’t survive. Parts of the industry survive on such tight margins so when you get something like this, it can just devastate,” he said. “We’re entering a period of recognition, that it’s changed, it’s going to be different. People want to ensure that it’s safe when they travel."

Through his research, he learned very few organizations had a crisis recovery strategy.

“A lot of the world just wasn’t ready for this and yet you could argue that places like Vietnam, Taiwan, even New Zealand, were very proactive,” he said

Taiwan closed their ports to cruise ships in January, their people were wearing masks in February, he said, while in the U.K., mandatory mask use is still being debated.

“Vietnam locked down their borders early and people were very obedient and because of that, they’ve just had their first death (last week) and it’s incredible they didn’t have an outbreak until now,” he said.

International tourism is going to take a long time to come back, so countries are investing in domestic tourism, however the challenge is that domestic tourists are different from international ones. They don’t use the bars and services in the same way and don’t spend as much money as international tourists, so tourism sectors have to adapt, he said.

It’s going to be a slow recovery for global tourism, he said, adding that certain countries like New Zealand and Australia have started to create bubbles where travellers can only visit certain destinations.

READ MORE: Asia-Pacific tourism makes patchy restart, and some missteps

B.C. will face the same challenges.

“It’s all about getting the locals out spending money and incentivizing them. In Malta, they had to give everyone $100 to get them out and spending,” he said, adding that domestic tourists need to feel comfortable while travelling to be able to spend money.

Sun Peaks Resort will have to think of new ways to get tourists for next winter, he said, as there will be a decrease in international travel for the next two to three years.

“It is an opportunity to show domestic tourists, there’s people that never go out in their backyard. I think this is an opportunity to showcase what you have,” Hudson said.

To read Hudson’s book, visit Goodfellow Publishers.


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