Coronavirus: what it means for the visitor economy

Sheona Southern, managing director at Marketing Manchester  

With the impact of coronavirus now being felt across the visitor economy, it’s more important than ever for those effected to pull together and support each other across Greater Manchester. 

A report commissioned by European Cities Marketing by ForwardKeys, a travel analytics company, has revealed that the outbreak and subsequent lockdown in Italy has triggered a wave of cancellations to the countrybut has also resulting in an overall collapse in new bookings to Europe by 79% from intercontinental source markets such as the Asia Pacific, Americas and Africa and the Middle East. 

Intelligence from across the visitor economy backs up this analysis 

Hotels throughout the region are reporting lost bookings as leisure groups from China, school groups from Europe and travellers from other markets cancel planned trips. We’re hearing that and several international conferences have cancelled their meetings in the region due to the ongoing situation. And looking further ahead, with Flybe collapsing and other airlines at risk, we are anticipating other airlines at risk could follow. 

Undoubtably this is also a worrying time for businesses that heavily rely on the visitor economy. Manchester’s Chinatown is particularly vulnerable due to misconceptions.  

Coronavirus is presenting the travel industries with an unprecedented global challenge. We know that the negative long-term impact of speculation, hype and over-reaction will be damaging not just to our industry, but also to our local communities and business as a whole. We feel strongly that it is our collective responsibility to focus on the facts and to act with common sense and sound judgement, taking the advice of the relevant authorities and scientists 

Therefore, with international travel patterns disrupted, whilst following government advice and monitoring the situation carefullywe think that there is an opportunity to promote local and domestic tourism this spring and into early summer, encouraging Brits that had planned international travel to take a holiday at home instead. In addition, there is a positive piece of work to do to encourage Greater Manchester residents to support the local economy by visiting businesses in the visitor economy that may be feeling the impact – to enjoy their home patch including surrounding countryside. 

We are in conversation with Greater Manchester’s local authorities, VisitBritain and our campaign partners and destinations across the north of England to co-ordinate a campaign to promote such activity and we would welcome any support or ideas from our partners and stakeholders. To aid us, please fill out our impact survey here

We are also working with our colleagues in the Growth Company to provide business advice for the tourism industry including sessions on managing staff, managing business, utilising digital and dealing with insurance/legal issues. Your response to the survey will help us to tailor these sessions for your business.  

In the meantime, we will continue to monitor the situation regarding all international activity and update you with relevant information. VisitBritain continues to provide regular updates on their website specifically for the UK travel trade industry, whilst travel advice for concerned visitors is regularly updated by the UK Government