China’s travel restrictions amid coronavirus outbreak will hit other Asian economies
- China has halted all group tours both domestically and to other countries to contain the spread of a new coronavirus that was thought to have originated from the central Chinese city of Wuhan in Hubei province.
- By the end of Monday, there were 4,515 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, China’s National Health Commission said in a notice. The death toll was 106.
- The outbreak will hit Asia Pacific economies, particularly in retail, restaurants, conferences, sporting events, tourism and commercial aviation, said Rajiv Biswas, Asia Pacific chief economist at IHS Markit.
- Travel-related sectors in Thailand, Japan, Vietnam and Australia will be particularly impacted.
Economies in Asia will have to brace for a tough year ahead as China deals with an outbreak, analysts and officials warned as travel restrictions hit.
China has halted all group tours both domestically and to other countries to contain the spread of a new coronavirus that was thought to have originated from the central Chinese city of Wuhan in Hubei province.
By the end of Monday, there were 4,515 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, China’s National Health Commission said in a notice. The death toll was 106.
Coronavirus are a large family of viruses that includes the common cold and SARS, the epidemic which killed almost 800 globally in an outbreak from 2002 to 2003.
The new coronavirus strain called “2019-nCoV” is believed to have an incubation period of two to 14 days, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Cancellations during peak travel season
Halting group tours from China has sent a wave of cancellations across the travel sector, with booking platforms and travel agents issuing refunds to customers.
China’s top online travel booking platform has set up a $200 million disaster relief fund to refund customers who have already paid for travel packages but who now cannot travel due to restrictions, said Jane Sun, the CEO of the company.
It’s “not only our company, the whole country will take a hit,” said Sun.
But there were already multiple cases of the coronavirus outside of China, ahead of the peak Lunar New Year season which started on Jan. 25.
>> >Latest information on the Novel Coronavirus pandemic. Epicenter in Wuhan, China
Chinese tourism curbs to hit Asia Pacific economies
The outbreak will hit Asia Pacific economies, particularly in retail, restaurants, conferences, sporting events, tourism and commercial aviation, said Rajiv Biswas, Asia Pacific chief economist at IHS Markit.
“The rapid rise in household incomes in China has triggered a boom in Chinese tourism visits abroad, which have risen from 20 million in 2003 to 150 million in 2018. Consequently the vulnerability of many Asia-Pacific economies to a slowdown in Chinese tourism visits has increased significantly over the past two decades,” said Biswas in a note on Tuesday.
“Over the past two decades, the rapid economic growth of China has made it a key export market for many Asia-Pacific nations. However, China’s growing importance in Asia-Pacific trade and investment flows has also created considerable vulnerability for the Asia-Pacific region from this type of unpredictable ‘black swan’ event currently hitting the Chinese economy,” said Biswas.
He said Thailand has been one of the “most notable beneficiaries of the boom in Chinese tourism,” with total annual Chinese tourist visits rising from 2.7 million in 2012 to 10.5 million in 2019. Chinese tourist spending in Thailand was estimated to have reached $17 billion in 2019.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand is meeting with the private sector on Tuesday to address concerns from an expected slump in business, the Bangkok Post reported.
Japan’s services industry is also getting hit by a rash of trip and hotel cancellations, the Nikkei Asian Review reported.
The country is a top vacation spot and IHS’ Biswas noted that total Chinese tourist visits to Japan hitting 9.6 million in 2019, accounting for 30% of total foreign tourist visits.
Meanwhile, Chinese tourism arrivals accounted for one-third of international visits to Vietnam, and 15% of total international tourist visits to Australia.
Biswas said governments in Asia Pacific are likely to respond with a range of fiscal and monetary policy stimulus to prop up near-term growth.
Singapore’s Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said the outbreak is expected to affect the economy of the city-state, Reuters reported. The government is considering support measures like worker levy cuts for impacted sectors like tourism, Chan reportedly said.