The former head of VisitBritain has warned travel is in “a period of peak uncertainty” and media reports of “disaster” threaten to hinder a recovery.
Christopher Rodrigues, World Travel & Tourism Council ambassador and former chairman of VisitBritain, said the industry should prepare for the next 12-24 months “to be bumpy”.
He told a virtual Destination Summit hosted by the Global Travel & Tourism Resilience Council and marketing agency Finn Partners: “I share everyone’s excitement about people coming back.
“But we are in a period of peak uncertainty because we have no economic solution at hand. There are a bunch of uncertainties, and we have to recognise that.”
Rodrigues said: “The real risk is if there are outbreaks in holiday destinations and governments don’t control the messaging, because consumers are sensitive.
“All of us have to worry about making sure the media are not simply highlighting the exceptions, but communicating that most things are going well.
“When we get to winter, when we get to the first outbreaks, when unemployment really kicks in and savings are depleted, this industry needs messaging to be positive – transparent and open – [but] not hyperbole and disaster rolling from the newspapers on a daily basis.”
He warned: “The person who is going to pay for everything to recover from Covid is the consumer. It’s only a question of how that is delivered.”
Rodrigues insisted: “I’m an optimist, but the next 12 to 24 months are going to be bouncy.
“There are some variables relevant to how we recover, particularly on pricing. Another one is hotels. I want to know a hotel is taking all precautions and I’ll pay for that. I don’t want a good deal in a badly run hotel.
“Some of the [hotel] chains are already acting on this and have worked out what is important. They have brand money. But what if you go to a small property? How do you know what they are doing?”
Rodrigues told the summit: “These are the sort of uncertainties in this period. We’ll get back, but it is going to be bumpy.”
However, he also argued: “Word of mouth will be really important. The first wave of visitors is going to be talking about what they found at airports, on airlines, in hotels, bed and breakfasts and Airbnb, what they found on beaches.
“You will find people more interested than ever in what travellers say online.”