Will the Travel Industry Catch the Flu?

More than one-third of those who intend to take a leisure trip during the next six months (from now through the end of April 2010), would be “very/extremely likely” to alter their travel plans should their intended destination experience a widespread outbreak of the H1N1 virus, the Ypartnership reports in its October 2009 travelhorizons survey. The survey explores the possible effects of the H1N1 flu on the travel industry.When asked how they would change their travel plans, almost half (45 percent) said they would postpone their trip until the outbreak subsided; fully one-third stated they would visit a different destination, and three out of 10 (31 percent) said they would cancel their trip.

Fully two-thirds of U. S. adults expect the incidence of swine flu in the U. S. to be higher this fall and winter compared to last spring, travelhorizons says.

“The H1N1 epidemic has been declared a 'national emergency' and the U.S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention is reporting the virus is now 'widespread' in 46 of 50 states," Peter Yesawich, the Ypartnership CEO writes. "Numerous schools have been closed and public events canceled as a result. Physician visits to evaluate flu-like symptoms are also reported to be higher now than the level typically recorded at the peak of the winter flu season.

“We have vivid memories of the devastating impact of the swine flu on tourism to and within such popular destinations as Mexico and Argentina just a few short months ago," Yesawich continued. "Airlines and attractions (both domestically and internationally) also felt the pain, as travelers were fearful of finding themselves in confined spaces conducive to the spread of the virus. So what impact is the specter of further spread of the disease likely to have on the travel industry?”

The October 2009 travelhorizons survey included several questions on this subject in order to gauge the potential impact of an extensive outbreak on the travel intentions of Americans. The results suggest the industry should be concerned about the potential impact, Ypartnership says.

“These results clearly underscore the importance of having a comprehensive public information campaign/contingency plan 'at the ready' to deal with the expected consequences of the spread of the virus should it appear your destination is likely to be affected. And given the speed with which the disease is known to spread, the time to do so is now,” Yesawich said.

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