A virulent virus, anxious travellers and a tourism sector on the brink. Appears like 2020? In truth, this was the expertise in just a few international cities in 2002 and 2003.
Toronto was one in all them. The town’s battle in opposition to a lethal virus — and the wrestle for the rehabilitation of its broken tourism sector — presents classes for cities questioning how they’ll navigate a post-COVID world. And even plan for the following disaster, each time it arrives.
Lodges, as locations of refuge, pleasure, enterprise and likewise contagion, are essential locations to discover how the tourism sector pilots its method by pandemics. The expertise with SARS presents sobering classes for Toronto and concrete vacationer locations globally.
Comparable impacts of SARS and COVID-19
How are the tourism crises of 2002-03 and at this time related, and the way do they differ? Each public well being disaster resulted in sudden, dramatic declines in resort occupancy. Nevertheless, whereas all journey got here to a sudden cease globally in 2020, the 2002-03 occasions centred on just a few cities, with Toronto, Singapore and Hong Kong beneath the microscope.
Resort occupancy charges in these cities recorded steep declines, as travellers headed elsewhere, companies suspended occasions and anxious airways and public well being authorities explored protocols such because the now-ubiquitous face masks.
The collapse in journey in winter 2020 occurred at some extent when the general economic system and the journey sector had been in strong form and recording document income. In 2002-03, circumstances had been very completely different. International journey had slowed because of the Iraq Warfare. Rising documentation necessities and lingering considerations over safety after 9/11 decreased cross-border site visitors between Canada and america.
Toronto lodges and SARS
The arrival of SARS dealt a physique blow to Canada’s largest metropolis.
Each SARS and COVID-19 have had a extreme influence on tourism and journey. Lodges are barometers of Toronto’s financial situation, and reveal the unequal impacts pandemics have on employment. Marginally employed individuals — immigrants and low-income employees — are over-represented amongst resort employees. They lose their jobs shortly within the face of decreased demand.
Seasonal employment prospects additionally dim within the face of disruption. As in summer time 2020, pupil summer time employment was impacted in 2003, particularly as Toronto entered the essential summer time months again, briefly, on the World Well being Group’s SARS journey advisory. The blow dealt to the tourism sector regionally was exhausting however, because it turned out, on no account deadly.
CP PHOTO/Kevin Frayer
Toronto’s expertise with SARS suggests that after a spot seems secure, reassured travellers return — with some coaxing and a whole lot of co-ordinated planning. In late spring 2003, Toronto companies developed a co-ordinated response to restoration. Journey packages that included lodging, restaurant reservations, sporting occasions and theatre tickets started to lure vacationers again. This promotion was accompanied by an aggressive and co-ordinated roll-back of gasoline costs.
After SARS, a celebration
The SARS disaster additionally led to the creation of a physique for the tourism and hospitality sector, chaired by Tourism Toronto, which aimed to revive town’s fame. Native and provincial governments dedicated funds for promoting to reassure potential vacationers that Toronto was secure. The federal authorities additionally introduced further funds to advertise Canada as a vacation spot in worldwide markets.
Essentially the most well-known a part of the fame rehabilitation technique was the internet hosting of the July 30, 2003, SARS profit live performance. A number of hundred thousand followers cheered a lineup of world-famous musicians, headlined by the Rolling Stones. The outcomes of that mega-event are exhausting to measure by way of influence, regardless of the massive and enthusiastic crowds that it drew. Such an occasion is unimaginable at this time, with the timeline for the COVID-19’s defeat far off, and the knowledge that doubts will linger concerning the knowledge of such boisterous, large-scale assemblies for a very long time to come back.
In 2003, excellent news for the tourism sector arrived shortly. In truth, by late 2004, lodges had been recording pre-SARS occupancy ranges. It appeared as if the sector had dodged a bullet. But it surely had additionally dodged a crucial alternative to mirror on how new applied sciences and requirements may cut back the influence of a future pandemic. And that is maybe the place the comparability proves most illuminating.
The resort sector faces dramatically completely different situations at this time. It’s within the midst of a world pandemic affecting all sectors of the economic system. SARS resulted in far fewer deaths, over a shorter time period, in a small variety of main cities.
Whereas the story of lodges’ restoration is inspiring, the tempo was so quick that few paused to ask is bigger classes could be discovered: What vulnerabilities might need been disguised within the rush to revive Toronto’s dynamic tourism sector? How might new applied sciences, systematic contingency planning and early detection techniques might need turn out to be built-in into resort administration post-2003?
The best lesson of SARS could also be how, amid the excited deal with restoration and a return to normalcy, so little thought was given to structurally put together for the prospect of future crises. We have to preserve these classes in thoughts as we plan our emergence from COVID-19, and the resumption of journey.
Kevin James receives funding from the College of Guelph COVID-19 Analysis Improvement & Catalyst Fund.
Jose Gabriel Alonzo receives funding from the College of Guelph COVID-19 Analysis Improvement & Catalyst Fund.
Mark Holmes receives funding from the College of Guelph and SSHRC. Holmes can also be a Board Member for the Canadian Journey and Tourism Analysis Affiliation.