Former chairman of VisitBritian called for greater collaboration between the tourism industry and the public and private sectors to enable countries to better prepare for disasters.
Now chairman of the Port of London Authority, Christopher Rodrigues told the Global Resilience Summit that the UK became acutely aware of the impact of crises during the 2001 foot and mouth disease outbreak.
He said this medical crises had a widespread impact on the UK’s domestic tourism sector which had severe knock-on effects on local businesses and economies.
Rodrigues said it was vital that the sector prepares for such eventualities, takes control of the news agenda, and is able to bring in all the support it needs from different parts of the public and private sectors.
“We are not competing on this, the whole industry suffers if any one part of the world suffers. We have to cooperate. What we are trying to do is provide the virtuous circles of travel, done in a vicious cycle as things unravel,” he said.
Rodrigues said what the foot and mouth crisis highlighted was that the tourism sector in the UK is very much a small and medium sized business sector which tend not to be prepared for crises.
And he said at the larger corporate level the sector tends to be “highly geared”. “Both of those circumstances make you extremely vulnerable to downturns in business,” he said.
When a crisis hits, Rodrigues said it is vital to get access to and communicate accurate information and to get a business as usual message out when appropriate.
He said providing authoritative information from trusted non-governmental sources, like spending data from credit card providers, reduces speculation and ultimately aids recovery.
“All tourism bodies have to work out who holds the control, who has convening power. No one person can do this. If you establish who has the convening power then it will work. If you wait for the disaster to work out who can convene you are already so far behind the eight ball.”
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