So, foot and mouth is back (maybe). The first new cases in the UK since 2001 have been discovered and farmers are waiting anxiously to see if it has spread. People are thinking back to the last outbreak and pictures of thousands of animals being incinerated.
Now this may seem to have little relevance to winter sports, but it does have a lot to do with outdoor tourism, which skiing is a part of. During the last outbreak for example, off-piste skiing was prohibited in the Scottish resorts, despite it being the best season in years, snow-wise. Irrespective of this, I think that everybody working in tourism needs to pay attention to what is happening in other parts of the industry.
I don't want to belittle the struggles of farmers, who will undoubtedly be hit hard if the disease spreads like last time. However, the plight of the farmers in 2001 was well publicised, and government compensation was given to help them re-establish their businesses. On the other hand, British tourism was also hit hard. Hardest hit was rural, outdoor and adventure tourism. Many businesses struggled or closed down that year, including hotels, B&Bs, outdoor centres, campsites, climbing instructors etc. These ventures lost out due to the British countryside being practically shut down in order to protect the farmers, yet no compensation and little publicity was given in this direction. For various reasons, farming is seen as a nationally important occupation, whereas tourism is not. In a lot of rural areas though, tourism is the growing industry, and the big employer, whereas in many places farming is in decline.
I don't want to see any further decline in rural agriculture, but lets hope that if there is another foot and mouth epidemic on the way, the powers that be will pay some attention to our rural tourism industry as well as to the farmers.