• search
For Quick Alerts
For Daily Alerts

How China's deadly virus is sending shockwaves through Asia's tourism industry


Tokyo, Jan 27: A deadly virus that has prompted travel restrictions in China is sending shockwaves through Asia's tourism industry, which has become increasingly reliant on growing numbers of Chinese visitors.

At least 81 people have died since the new strain of coronavirus emerged in China's Wuhan, and millions are now under an effective quarantine, with all flights in and out of the city grounded and a ban on Chinese tour groups domestically and abroad.

How Chinas deadly virus is sending shockwaves through Asias tourism industry

The measures come amid a boom in Chinese foreign travel, with the number of tourists from the country increasing nearly tenfold since 2003, according to a report by research firm Capital Economics. But businesses in destinations that rely on the huge numbers of Chinese tourists are already feeling the heat, with complaints of "deserted" beaches and shops, and concerns about the future.

Coronavirus: 4 Chinese among 5 under observation in Pakistan

The outbreak carries echoes of the SARS crisis, which paralysed regional travel and battered local economies from late 2002. Chinese tourist numbers then fell by around a third.

"If they fell by a similar amount again, it would knock around 1.5-2.0 percentage points from (gross domestic product) in the most vulnerable countries," Capital Economics said. In Japan, the fall in Chinese visitors was already being felt in Asakusa, a popular tourist destination near the Sensoji temple.

"We've definitely been seeing less people this year," said Yoshie Yoneyama, 31, manager of a shop selling traditional Japanese sweets and a rice-based drink called amazake. "I think there are less than half the numbers of last year or the year before," she told AFP.

The number of Chinese holidaying in Japan has exploded from around 450,000 in 2003 to 8.4 million in 2018, accounting for 27 per cent of all inbound tourists as Tokyo works to expand the sector. But it will now be "very difficult" for Japan to achieve its target of 40 million tourists in 2020, Yuki Takashima, an economist at Nomura Securities, told AFP.

And the effects will be felt beyond hotels, restaurants and tourist sites because many Chinese tourists visit Japan specifically to shop. Electronic appliances and beauty products usually top of their lists, Takashima said, so retail outlets will see their bottom lines affected.

The crisis has already sent Japan's key Nikkei index plunging, with stock in Shiseido -- a cosmetics brand popular with Chinese tourists -- plunging more than five per cent on Monday. "We can expect those stocks to continue to fall like dominoes," said Stephen Innes, chief market strategist at AxiCorp. But he said Japan would be better placed to weather the storm than another top destination for Chinese tourists.

Coronavirus epidemic: Death toll climbs to 80 in China with 2,744 confirmed cases

Tourism accounts for 18 per cent of the nation's GDP, with Chinese holidaymakers making up more than a quarter of total arrivals. The country's tourism minister has already warned a crisis on the scale of SARS could cost an estimated USD 1.6 billion, and the effects are already clear in Phuket.

"For two days, the streets, the shops and the beaches have been deserted," said Claude de Crissey, who owns a 40-room hotel and a restaurant on the island. "Phuket has focused almost exclusively on Chinese tourism... if the situation continues, we will all be impacted," he told AFP. Australia too, already reeling from the effects of the bushfire crisis, is likely to feel the impact.

For Daily Alerts
Get Instant News Updates
Notification Settings X
Time Settings
Clear Notification X
Do you want to clear all the notifications from your inbox?
Settings X
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. This includes cookies from third party social media websites and ad networks. Such third party cookies may track your use on Oneindia sites for better rendering. Our partners use cookies to ensure we show you advertising that is relevant to you. If you continue without changing your settings, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies on Oneindia website. However, you can change your cookie settings at any time. Learn more