The virus and an accidental tourist
OPINION: Clear, sensible thinking and strategising are essential, both on a personal level and in business, when responding to threats posed by the coronavirus.
One of the challenges when writing about something like the COVID-19 coronavirus is that events are moving quickly, so for all my agonising over this column’s content, it could be out of date by the time Business News hits the presses.
One way is just to look in the rear view mirror, so I have decided to give a quick snapshot of how the virus affected me during the past two weeks.
The most critical element was a decision to pull the pin on a 10-day holiday in Japan. I know many people are reviewing their future vacation plans, given the daily changes in travel advice and infection data. Nevertheless, it’s a tough decision.
My trip was complicated by plans to travel to Tokyo with one group and then split off and do something with a smaller cohort afterwards.
When several people decided they could not afford – for work or family reasons – the likelihood of spending 14 days in isolation upon their return home, this trip unravelled pretty quickly. My personal point of view at the time was that, not only were some key people no longer travelling, but it might not be much of a holiday if we were spending the whole time wearing masks, washing our hands, or trying to find facilities that were open.
So just for basic reasons, it was easy to call it quits. I might add that I got back most of the cost of flights and accommodation, which really simplified the decision.
I think there was also this nagging doubt that, if all went pear-shaped, it came down to personal responsibility.
A lot of ‘what were they thinking’ type conversations are taking place about certain decisions people have made regarding travel and self-isolation. It’s often wise not to be asked that kind of question as generally it means you weren’t thinking things through.
From a business point of view, Business News is grappling with the same issues.
We are warning staff planning overseas travel that there’s a risk they may have to self-isolate upon return. We are looking at everyone’s job and working out if it can be done remotely and what equipment they would require if they don’t have it at home.
For some parts of our business, COVID-19 is a real threat. For the Events department, for instance, it’s something we have to grapple with because of the face-to-face element.
Then again, news is something people will want more of, not less.
Let’s hope it isn’t just bad news to cover during this period; we’d rather focus on those who are innovating to get around barriers to business like this virus, with an intention to use this period to make their operations even stronger when the air clears.
Instead of Japan I headed south to spend time in Pemberton, Walpole, Denmark and Albany.
It is a remarkable time of year to go to our state’s true south. The milder temperatures make going to the amazing forests, climbing incredible granite outcrops and swimming in a surprisingly warm ocean much more pleasant. I was also impressed with how much water remained in the various rivers, pools and billabongs in the region.
Despite the trip overlapping the Labour Day long weekend, I found the region much quieter than I expected. Compared to Margaret River, which no doubt would have been very busy, there were few crowds in Pemberton.
The plus side to this is a much-enhanced enjoyment of natural attractions. The negative is how many tourism operations were closed or had limited offerings.
It was hard to tell if this was merely because summer was over or because the town was struggling to attract the visitor numbers it needs to sustain restaurants, wineries and other tourism-related businesses. I suspect it was the latter, which is a pity because Pemberton has so much going for it.
However, there is also a dark side to this, with the massive Auswest Timbers wood mill sitting inactive and forlorn on the edge of town.
It is hard to imagine tourism easily replacing the hundreds of full-time, year-round jobs that were lost when it closed.
Pemberton reflects the pretence that the blow from shutting down hard industries can be softened with alternatives. There might be examples in the world, but they are difficult to find and Pemberton isn’t one of them, in my view. Let’s hope the obvious development of avocado and hazelnut (for truffles) plantations will help.
Further east, it is a bit more balanced in that respect. The Scotsdale Tourist Drive around Denmark appears to have the critical mass of outlets that feed off each other. Of course, Denmark is also closer to Albany with a population that clearly sustains the region.
This is one of my favourite areas of Western Australia. If you have to holiday and want to lower the risks of self-isolation, you could do worse than getting down there.