ROB MURRAY: I’m speaking with Simon Hudson, author of the new book COVID-19 and Travel: Impacts, Responses and Outcomes. What’s your expertise in this field?

SH: I’m a professor of tourism. I was actually at the University of Calgary for the past 10 years, which is why I have a place in Canmore.

RM: What were some of the insights that you found?

SH: This is my 10th book, and what I found really good was the response I had from the industry. I think maybe because people were stuck at home; the tourism hospitality industry was impacted perhaps more than any other industry. It showed how vulnerable the industry is to these sort of uncontrollable factors. Maybe something we can learn coming out of this is we need the industry to be more sustainable. It was ironic that just a year or so ago I was teaching about over-tourism and we’ve suddenly moved straight from over-tourism to under-tourism. We need to be more resilient because this could happen again. We will get over this, but other uncontrollable crises will come along. I think the industry needs to be more sustainable and more resilient.

RM: A lot of talk about the new normal, Is tourism something that will rebound to the levels that we were at pre-pandemic or are we in a situation where this is going to be really affecting the industry for the long term?

SH: At the end of the book in the last case study I’m talking about the future. I wrote about a business in Canmore, The Sensory Restaurant run by Terry Jensen. He said – I know we’re not going back to normal as it were, but I have to be prepared for the new normal. I think that’s critical for people in the industry rather than having your head in the sand thinking, well, one day we’ll get back to those numbers. It’s changed significantly. We may get back to 2019 numbers, perhaps by ’23 or ‘24. My feeling is that it won’t be a vaccine that will facilitate that, it’ll be more instant testing at borders, much more sophisticated tracking and tracing, use of technology. But no, I don’t think we’re going back to a normal at all. One thing I noticed from Terry at The Sensory was his willingness to adapt, and that whole what I call COVID adaptability is critical. Being ready to change completely your business model to adapt to what we’re calling this new normal.

RM: What were some of the other takeaways from the local case study with Terry at The Sensory?

SH: Something I found pretty cool throughout the book – companies that are doing well were continuing to communicate. There’s always a temptation during a crisis or a recession to cut your spending, cut your advertising, cut your PR. He was very vocal in radio, newspaper, and social media. Sometimes it’s the better time to advertise because you’re keeping your customers aware that you’re still in business and then you’re top of mind when you come out of the crisis. Third, apart from this adaptability and communication, I think he was very willing to collaborate. The word unprecedented has been used a lot, but this was unprecedented. There was no roadmap, so we couldn’t come out of this on our own, and he realized that. He was willing to collaborate with media or collaborate with the government or with the landlords on different schemes. What I found interesting about writing about Terry is that he was doing everything right, yet he still admitted it really was a matter of survival. I think for a lot of businesses in tourism and hospitality, 2020 is all about survival. There’ll be a lot of businesses that won’t come through this because it’s going to be a slow recovery.

RM: You take case studies from all over the world in this book. What are some comparisons to Canmore and Canada as a whole, how we’ve dealt with the pandemic here and how the governments and various programs have supported the tourism industry, compared to other countries in the world?

SH: Canmore was a fantastic place to be during lockdown if there was such a place. I felt very safe and I felt the government were handling it really well. The communication was excellent. When you look at countries like Vietnam, and it was a country I profiled in the book, right on the border with Japan, 96 million people, they’ve had a handful of deaths and very few cases. Some of the Asian countries have done incredibly well dealing with the virus and they have their tourism industry up and running already, even if it’s just domestic tourism, I think Canada may benefit similarly from what I call a halo effect. The fact that they’ll come out of this because they dealt with the virus very well with this kind of halo and people say, well, Canada is a safe place to visit. I’m not talking about in the next 12 months, but in the future, two to three years time, I think Canada may come out of this in the long term in a positive way from a tourism point of view. But I think it’s going to take a few years for the international tourists to come back.

COVID-19 and Travel can be purchased here.  Use the code ‘covid19disc’ to receive 20% off on your order.


Filed under: Canmore, covid-19, Tourism