Coronavirus and global tourism
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Is the coronavirus a threat to global tourism?

Quickly after its initial outbreak in Wuhan province, China, COVID-19 has spread to all four corners of the globe in the space of less than two months. China’s Ministry of Transport reported that 73 percent fewer trips were taken by Chinese tourists over the Chinese new year holiday in 2020 compared to the previous year. Over 90,000 people have been infected by the coronavirus, with 3,000 dead and the virus being reported in every continent except Antarctica.

The risk of spreading or obtaining coronavirus has had a severe impact on global tourism. Extreme limitations have been placed onto flights in at least 14 countries, with some flights even being banned to and from mainland China. Placing such restrictions on the world’s second-largest economy has resulted in economists warning of detrimental results to global growth.

China’s Ministry of Transport reported that 73 percent fewer trips were taken by Chinese tourists over the Chinese new year holiday in 2020 compared to the previous year. Over 90,000 people have been infected by the coronavirus, with 3,000 dead and the virus being reported in every continent except Antarctica.

As more Chinese cities contain their citizens due to concerns of the virus spreading, neighbouring cities are having a knock-on effect. Thailand, which sees 11 million Chinese travellers per year, has been described as one of the countries most at risk. The reactions have ranged from panic to preparation. Tourism makes up 20% of Thailand’s value, and Chinese visitors contribute to a quarter of these trips.

The number of foreign visitors to Japan has been consistently falling as the coronavirus outbreak keeps away Chinese travellers

Close to China is Japan, which sees 31.9 million foreign visitors per year with more than 9.5 million being Chinese. The number of foreign visitors to Japan has been consistently falling as the coronavirus outbreak keeps away Chinese travellers. The fall in number comes months before Japan is set to host the 2020 Summer Olympics over July and August, but despite the fall in visitor stats, Japan is sticking to their pledge of welcoming 40 million foreign visitors.

Further afield, all members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Kuwait – will be affected by the travel restrictions, but the business hub of Dubai, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), could see the biggest impact. “Virus-related travel restrictions, if not lifted as we expect, could weigh on the GCC’s hospitality industry, but more so in Dubai, which received almost one million visitors from China in 2019,” said analysts at ratings agency S&P.

Russian tourism officials reported to be forecasting a loss of $100m from government measures to shut its borders to Chinese citizens

Turkey, which has yet to report any coronavirus outbreaks, needs tourism revenues to earn much-needed foreign currency and to prevent any further threats to their economy. Early bookings between November and January had put Turkey on target to earn a record $40 billion from tourism this year. However, with concerns that Turkey could be the latest hotbed for the virus, this may have a knock-on effect to their earning predictions and, ultimately, tourism.

In Europe, a lockdown in northern Italy is already raising concerns about the spread of the virus, prompting a relative upsurge in bookings in places such as Mallorca and Spain. In France, Chinese visitors brought in 7 percent of the country’s €3.6bn tourism spend in 2018, populating the tourist hotspots and famous landmarks. Russian tourism officials reported to be forecasting a loss of $100m from government measures to shut its borders to Chinese citizens, who last year made up the biggest group of international visitors to the country.

The number of Chinese visitors in the USA will fall by around 30% this year

According to Tourism Economics, the number of Chinese visitors in the USA will fall by around 30% this year, losing around $5.8 billion in profit. The USA sees around 3 million Chinese visitors per year who are reported to spend 50% more than other international tourists, so it will be a tough hit to the economy.

You can access updates on travel advice concerning the coronavirus here, and to check travel advice for 225 countries across the globe, The Foreign & Commonwealth Office covers everything you need to know for your next trip.

These figures are accurate as of 4 March 2020.

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