The Asian countries closest to China, which is the epicenter of the outbreak and the world’s leading source of international travelers and tourism spending, are feeling the brunt of the crisis, but the effects are spreading. On Sunday, Venice cut short its annual carnival celebration, and the Italian government shut down travel to 10 towns in the Lombardy region after a surge in new cases there.
In recent years, countries in Southeast Asia invested heavily in resorts and casinos to capture the swelling ranks of Chinese tourists. Now airlines, hotels and tour operators are suffering from a rush of cancellations and a drop in future bookings, primarily from mainland China, but also from Western travelers spooked by the spread of the virus in the region.
The economic toll is mounting: Countries that have relied heavily on Chinese tourism, including Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia and Singapore, are each expected to lose at least $3 billion in tourism-related revenues, according to an analysis by Animesh Kumar, a travel and tourism director at GlobalData, a research and consulting firm based in London.
Chinese travelers racked up an unprecedented 150 million trips abroad and spent more than $277 billion on international travel in 2018. But the juggernaut last year sputtered in the wake of slower economic growth and the trade war with the United States. It effectively came to a halt as the coronavirus epidemic led the government to bar groups of tourists from traveling abroad, and dozens of international carriers like American Airlines and United Airlines suspended flights to mainland China.