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Corona virus hits global tourism hard

China | Tourism and Corona | Hong Kong (picture-alliance / dpa / Vincent Yu)

The coronavirus has a firm grip on global tourism. The situation in Asia is particularly dramatic. The European tourism industry is also becoming increasingly nervous.

France | Tourism and Corona | Paris Louvre (picture-alliance / dpa / C. Ena)A rare sight – the Louvre deserted because employees are on strike for fear of corona

Empty hotels, canceled flights, closed sights. The coronavirus paralyzes global tourism. The industry is already anticipating billions in losses. At least Europe is facing the greatest crisis: Popular tourist destinations have often been deserted since the outbreak in Italy. Museums, theaters, and sights remain closed in Venice and Milan, and major events have been canceled. In France, too, the Louvre was closed for two days in a row because employees feared contagion that they would quit their jobs.

In Germany, meanwhile, after the cancellation of the International Tourism Fair (ITB), there is more concern about the consequences of travel cancellations from the Far East. The German National Tourist Board (GNTB) assumes that overnight stays from China will decrease by between 17 and 25 percent. Since tourists from China make a substantial contribution to sales of around 8 billion euros annually, the losses are likely to hit tourism in this country too.

Germany | Tourism and Corona | Heidelberg (picture-alliance / dpa / K. Niehus)Popular travel destinations such as Heidelberg Castle expect fewer visitors

“We will certainly feel this slump,” says Mathias Schiemer, Managing Director of Heidelberg City Marketing, in an interview with DW. The city on the Neckar is one of the most popular destinations for Chinese tourists in Germany. No figures are available yet, explains Schiemer. But one thing is certain: “We cannot compensate for this loss”.

The escape from the coronavirus

Asian countries most affected

The situation in Asia is more dramatic than in Europe. Because: Of the approximately 150 million Chinese trips abroad, 90 percent go to Asian countries. Chinese tourists have become a key economic factor there. However, because most airlines have discontinued their connections to China, the wealthy guests from the People’s Republic have so far largely failed to appear.

Indonesia | Tourism and Corona | Gili Air Island (picture-alliance / Newscom / R. Ben Ari)A blessing for nature, a challenge for the tourism industry – boats of the Gili Islands are waiting for guests

The Indonesian island of Bali announced that 40,000 hotel bookings had already been canceled. Japan is even more affected. There, guests from China made up around a quarter of the 32 million foreign visitors in 2018. Many sights are now visited almost exclusively by tourists from Europe and North America – even though they are increasingly missing due to the coronavirus.

A similar picture can be seen in Thailand, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, and Vietnam. “It is certainly a disaster for these countries,” says tourism professor and director of the China Outbound Tourism Institute (COTRI), Wolfgang Arlt, in an interview with DW. Many, especially smaller companies such as souvenir shops, hotels, and tour operators should have closed. Tourism in Thailand fears a decrease of 6 million guests this year, 16 percent less than in the previous year.

Situation in China

China | Tourism and Corona | Beijing (picture-alliance / dpa / A. Wong)Qianmen Street in Beijing – usually a popular tourist spot

In China itself, tourism has largely come to a standstill. Popular sights such as the Imperial Palace in Beijing or the Great Wall of China are completely or partially closed, and air traffic within China has largely been stopped. Particularly painful for the Chinese tourism industry: the time of the coronavirus outbreak. Because the week around the Chinese New Year on January 24, 2020, was the main travel season in China.

This hit Hong Kong’s tourism industry particularly hard. The Chinese Special Administrative Region has traditionally been the most popular destination for tourists and business travelers from mainland China. But the protests that lasted for months had already led to a drop in visitor numbers last year. After the outbreak of the coronavirus, the hotels in Hong Kong are only 20 percent full, according to COTRI director Wolfgang Arlt. Anyone who lives on tourism in Hong Kong has had to cope with a drop in sales of 80 to 90 percent in the past nine months.

Governments are helping the tourism sector

China | Tourism and Corona | Hong Kong (picture-alliance / dpa / Vincent Yu)The everyday scene in front of a Hong Kong harbor backdrop – if only it weren’t for the face mask

To counteract the ongoing economic downturn, the Hong Kong government announced on Wednesday (February 26, 2020) that it would give all citizens 10,000 Hong Kong dollars (around 1200 euros). Other countries are also trying various measures to prevent their ailing tourism industry from collapsing.

China, Singapore, and Thailand have announced tax breaks and grants. Vietnam and Australia also want to lure tourists from other regions into the country with visa facilitation and marketing campaigns. The governments of Malaysia and the Philippines, on the other hand, have called for travel within their own country if possible.

China remains the engine for tourism

The coronavirus shows how important China is for global tourism. 150 million Chinese went abroad in 2018, spending $ 277 billion. China is well ahead of the United States and Germany. The immense growth of the Chinese tourism sector is unlikely to be stopped by the coronavirus. By 2030, the COTRI estimates that the number of Chinese trips abroad could increase to up to 400 million. Then every fifth international tourist would come from China.

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