SWINE FLU TRAVEL IMPLICATIONS
Political troubles in India and Thailand. Surging oil prices. Drug issues in a few Mexican cities. And, now, as if the worldwide travel industry wasn't under enough strain, the World Health Organization has declared a global swine flu pandemic; the first of its kind in 41 years.
No one at WHO is suggesting people stay home, at least not to my knowledge. But there are some disturbing signs of panic in various parts of the world, including South America, where numbers are starting to rise, and in Australia and China.
There are reports of near panic in Argentina. According to Associated Press, so many people are worried about swine flu in Buenos Aires that they've flooded into local hospitals, causing emergency health services to collapse. AP said a bus arriving in Argentina from Chile last month was stoned by people who thought someone on board had swine flu. Chile is said to have the most listed cases of swine flu in South America.
There also are concerns in Canada's First Nations community and in China. Because it's winter in the southern hemisphere and flu season is normally in winter, we could see some serious issues arising in South America and other southern destinations in the coming weeks.
The main concern is for victims, of course, and officials seem to suggest that most cases so far are relatively mild and that there shouldn't be any panic. But funny things happen in situations like these, and it's exactly what people in the travel industry don't need right now.
And it's not just a few vacationers who might end up suffering. Tourism is a massive industry worldwide, and for every person that stays home it means less meals cooked by a kitchen worker in Buenos Aires or less beds to make for a hotel worker in Adelaide.
Let's hope this gets under control. Quickly. For everyone's sake.