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Don't panic – this time, we're ready

20 March 2003 by
Don't panic – this time, we're ready

The talk at last week's international hotel investment forum in Berlin was dominated by conjecture, prediction and forecast - what effect will war with Iraq have on tourism and hospitality?

The scenarios ranged from the worst case (three million job losses worldwide) to the minimal (slight decline, followed by a bounce back in 2004).

The problem is that no one really knows. No one, not even the most experienced analyst, can predict how the war will pan out, how long it will last, and what effect it will have on business and the global economy.

The most obvious conclusion is that it will be similar to the Gulf War in 1992. But that is not quite right - it's different this time round.

In the UK, the hotel industry has been through a trauma during the past two years - dealing with foot-and-mouth and the decline in US visitors - and is actually better placed to deal with a crisis than the same sectors in Europe and other parts of the world. Cutbacks have already been made, contingencies drawn up and, though it may not feel like it, hotel stock is more robust than many think.

The message, as always in these situations, is: don't panic, stay calm and take each development as it comes. Over-reaction at this stage will create an unnecessary downward spiral.

There is one more point that should give rise to a perverse optimism. My grandfather was a doctor, a general practitioner with a surgery in the centre of Nottingham. On 3 September 1939, his waiting room was empty - everyone had something more to think about than being ill. That is the nature of war - it forces a wider perspective, provides common ground and creates a unity in an otherwise fragmented community.

The same could apply to the hospitality profession in the UK. We could all emerge from this disaster with a more cohesive industry than before.

By Forbes Mutch, Editor, Caterer & Hotelkeeper

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