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Chinese tourists wearing masks walk through the Ginza shopping district on January 24, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images)
Chinese tourists wearing masks walk through the Ginza shopping district on January 24, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images)

How the coronavirus will affect tourism in Asia

Travelers to Asia have become an economic force, however, the spread of the coronavirus could result in a steep decline in the industry.

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Since January 30, 2020, the coronavirus has been declared a “public health emergency of international concern” by the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization.

A day later, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II declared it a public health emergency for the United States.

In the roughly two months since the first cases of the coronavirus were detected in Wuhan, China, more than 80,000 cases and 2,700 deaths have been confirmed worldwide — including more than 1,000 deaths in China — with the numbers likely to continue increasing. 

It is being reported that the likely continuation of the spread of the virus will result in a decrease in Chinese travel and tourism.

Over the past two decades, the Chinese tourism market has seen tremendous growth, with travel departures seeing an increase from 4.5 million in 2000 to 150 million in 2018, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization. These travelers have become their own economic force, spending $277 billion.

In 2018, the total revenue of the Chinese travel and tourism was CNY 5.97 trillion, which was a 10.2% increase from 2017. It was expected that the number of domestic trips in China would increase to about 2.38 billion trips by 2020. However, the coronavirus outbreak is likely to cause those numbers to drop significantly. 

“Time after time, the global tourism industry has demonstrated its sensitivity and resilience,” Robert Li, professor, and director of the U.S.-Asia Center for Tourism & Hospitality Research at Temple University’s School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management, told Temple University

According to officials in Bali, Indonesia, more than 40,000 hotel bookings to the island have been canceled, and the coronavirus outbreak could cause up to 0.3 percentage points off the country’s GDP. 

“The global tourism industry is expected to suffer massively during the outbreak,” Lisa Wan, a professor at Chinese University of Hong Kong Business School, told The Atlantic

While the outbreak is forecasting a decrease in tourism and revenue, the future outlook is considered completely bleak. 

“For the Chinese tourism industry, this epidemic could be an opportunity to weed out weaker businesses and adopt innovation and new businesses,” said Li. 

It’s unclear at the moment how soon the outbreak will be contained, however, most reports have forecasted that Asian travel and tourism could start rebounding within 10 to 12 months.

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