according to a senior tourism academic.
Peter Robinson, Senior Lecturer (Leisure Industries)at the University of Wolverhampton, said the effects could have a much longer term impact.
He said: “Amidst the chaos and delays there is a very real risk that some airline companies will go out of business, and the current situation highlights the now apparent 'fragility' of flight may have an impact on travellers who may be concerned in future about the risk of being stuck in a foreign country. This could have longer term impacts on the airline business.
The Met Office said the risk of volcanic ash heading over the UK could continue until Friday, when the wind direction expected to change. More than 6.8 million passengers have been affected so far, as the crisis enters its fifth day.
Mr Robinson, who is Course Leader for Tourism Management and is currently researching trends in moving away from fast long distance transit to slower forms of travel, added: “The whole situation is having a very positive benefit for other travel operators and car hire firms in terms of both profits and also as alternative modes of transport.
“However, it is potentially bad news for summer holiday bookings with many people likely to look elsewhere for their travel arrangements, possibly with subsequent decisions to travel a shorter distance, within easy reach on trains and ferries.
“This will impact not only on decisions made by people in the UK planning their holidays, but could also impact on inbound bookings from overseas from lucrative and important American, Asian and Australasian markets which are important to the British and European tourism economies.”
He added it could, however, have a longer term positive effect on UK tourism, furthering the growth of the 'staycation' which emerged strongly through last year’s economic difficulties and helping to raise further awareness of the many places to visit in the UK, which in itself brings economic benefits.
Referring to the short-term, Mr Robinson, of the University's School of Sport, Performing Arts and Leisure, said: “The challenge still remains that, even with a solution, airline operators have to then be allowed access to airspace to implement this plan and there is an understandable nervousness about allowing planes to fly through potentially hazardous ash clouds.
The other difficulty is the fact that we are generally relying on a computer model to assimilate the movement, size and shape of the ash cloud and in reality there may be safe passages through which planes can pass, but without further investigation (through manned or unmanned observation planes and test flights) it is impossible to know where these are or how safe it is to fly.”
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