The travel and tourism sector of China is now feeling the brunt of the concerns and fears surrounding the spread of the coronavirus.
This potential public health hazard has come just before that time of the year where more than 400 million Chinese were expected to travel on the occasion of the celebrations surrounding the Lunar New Year that began on Friday. The week is one of the busiest periods of the year for airlines, hotels and tourist destinations.
This year though the fear and concerns of the coronavirus has resulted in mass cancellations of flight and hotel bookings even as the Chinese government imposes travel restrictions to stop the spread of the new virus.
Till date, 26 people have died because of the virus while more than 800 cases of infection have been reported from all over the world.
A number of airlines have either pledged to refund fares or allowed customers to re-book free of cost if they are affected. Similar offers are also being given by the major hotel chains.
The share price of the three major Chinese airlines – China Southern Airlines, China Eastern Airlines and China Air, dived down following a directive from the Civil Aviation Administration of China mandating refunding customers for flights that are cancelled. There has been a drop of 13 per cent in the share price of China Eastern Airlines.
The first major airline to allow passengers who were scheduled to fly to or from Wuhan to reschedule their flights for free was Hong Kong’s national carrier Cathay Pacific. The airline also directed cabin crew to wear surgical masks while on duty. The first cases of this new strain of virus – which is similar to the SARS virus that caused an endemic in Asia including China a decade ago, were reported from Wuhan. Since such reporting the virus – known now as the coronavirus, has not spread to many other parts of China and even internationally. Cases of people being affected by the virus have been reported from many a number of countries including Singapore, Thailand and the United States.
Cancellation fees on all hotels, car rentals and tickets for tourist attractions to Wuhan is also being waived by China’s biggest online travel agency, Trip.com. The company has said that it is ”actively monitoring the situation to ensure the safety of all travellers”.
Refunds are also being made by large and small hotel groups allowing people to cancel bookings and get back their money for trips to Wuhan and to some other parts of China that have been affected.
During the Lunar New Year holiday, guests will be allowed to change or cancel stays at the majority of the Chinese hotels of the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) and Hyatt. There are a total of 443 hotels of in China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan belonging to different brands. The company has four hotels in Wuhan.
Share prices of casino operators – especially those based in Macau, have also nosedived. Companies like Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resorts owns casinos in Macau.
(Adapted from BBC.com)