It is a difficult time to write this article in the period following the terrorist attacks in America. As the world awaits the repercussions of this appalling action it seems a small thing to bewail the difficulties faced by the UK hospitality industry with the continuing outbreak of foot-and-mouth.
The hotel and catering industry is not unused to challenges, and each year tends to pose its own special problem. Earlier this year, as the effect of foot-and-mouth closed the countryside and the expected start to the Easter season did not materialise, there was talk of a recession in the US and a decline in overseas visitors. The industry has spent the past few years reshaping itself with Big is Beautiful, as the large corporates bought and sold various companies to achieve efficiencies, and presumably profitability. It was ready to reap the benefits this season.
Now we must factor in the effect of terrorism on the decline already forecast in overseas visitors for the next 18 months. Fortunately, the British have a well-deserved reputation for 'getting on with it'. The first response to foot-and-mouth in February, when it was known that we had a serious epidemic on our hands, was of sympathy for the agricultural community. The Government stepped in and took action to halt the disease. Although this was largely to preserve existing farming practices, it had an enormous and detrimental effect on the more important tourism economy.