NATURALLY the question on most people’s lips is will there be tourism in the Falkland Islands this coming season? This week Executive Director of the Falkland Islands Tourist Board Steph Middleton told Penguin News that while she could not give an answer she would attempt to, “explain the process that we will be going through.”
Mrs Middleton writes:
At some point in the next three months, FIG will make a decision about our immigration policy for October, and potentially beyond. This decision may continue to be made on a month-by-month basis, or MLAs may decide to end uncertainty and impose it for a longer period, so everyone can plan more effectively.
Like almost every other country in the world, FIG will make this decision based upon a number of factors, but most significantly the global status of the pandemic and medical advice including our ability to test, trace, and protect the vulnerable.
Ground Zero
This decision is Ground Zero. If they decide to close the Falklands to all but essential visits, there will be no tourism for part or all of this coming season. Simple.
However, if the decision is made to accept visitors, and this may be a partial opening of borders such as only accepting expedition cruise ships that have tested their passengers or only accepting visitors who travel via the airbridge (these are just examples), then we need to assess what the season will look like in terms of numbers, and where these visitors will go and what they will do.
To help in this regard, we are doing two things. Firstly, we produce a fortnightly publication that is tracking the global tourism response to COVID-19. Only by doing this can we assess how tourism will shape up next season.
Our visitors come from all over the world – the UK, USA, Germany, Australia, even China. Unless we monitor these markets, consumer sentiment, what the airlines and cruise operators are planning, we will not be prepared for what is coming next.
Different Scenarios
Secondly, FIG have asked us to work on a model that will, based on different scenarios of visitor being allowed into the Falklands, project visitor numbers, expenditure, and the impact on the economy. It is hoped that this will help MLAs make some important decisions in the months to come.
Finally, and most importantly, our COVID-19 updates are based on fact. It would be wrong for us to say: prepare for the season, all will be well! Because we simply do not know that. Equally, it would be wrong to say: it’s unlikely we’ll be seeing anyone until 2021, at least at the moment.
We must track the sector, watch our source markets and the decisions their governments are making, and cut our cloth accordingly.
IAATO are currently telling us that they are “preparing for the season as normal”.
LATAM will sell a tourist in the UK a seat on a flight from Heathrow to Mount Pleasant in December.
This isn’t to say these things will happen, but at present, that is the situation.
Almost every country in the world, and that’s about 180 of them, is currently preparing to welcome back tourists.
They are preparing marketing campaigns, better hygiene measures, transportation arrangements, and so on.
There will be a ‘new normal’ in tourism from 2020, and we need to be ready for it, even if we don’t know when it will come, otherwise it could set us back many years as we lose out to those destinations that are prepared.