Report: Coronavirus could have lasting economic impact on tourism industry

The World Travel & Tourism Council talks about the impact of panic to the tourism sector

WTTC said the closure of airports and flight cancellations have a larger economic impact than the epidemics themselves (Image credit: WAM)
WTTC said the closure of airports and flight cancellations have a larger economic impact than the epidemics themselves (Image credit: WAM)

As airports across the Gulf insist on screening passengers arriving from China’s Wuhan, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has discussed how the scare around the coronavirus could have drastic knock-on effects to the travel and tourism industry.

WTTC said that containing the spread of panic is as important as containing the virus itself. WTTC president & CEO, Gloria Guevara went on to say the tourism industry must learn from previous epidemics.

Analysis by WTTC shows that the recovery time for visitor numbers to a destination following an epidemic scare was 19 months, though this could be lessened to 10 months if the right responses were introduced.

Previous epidemics

The economic impact from the Mexican outbreak of H1N1 influenza in 2009 is said to have lost the country’s tourism industry approximately US$5 billion, contributing to a global loss of $55 billion.

Similarly the SARS outbreak in 2003 is estimated by WTTC to have lost the tourism industry between $30 and $50 billion.


Relating these past events to the current coronavirus, Guevara said: “While the risk of exposure for travellers and tourists is still low, we are naturally concerned about those who have been affected already.

She continued: “Experience has taught us that global coordination and cooperation, with collaboration between the public and private sector, is going to be vital in containing the spread of the coronavirus throughout China and beyond.”

“We analyse many global crises within WTTC and previous cases have shown us that the economic losses from health epidemics are avoidable, through the effective use of crisis preparedness and management procedures, as well as through managing public panic and making rational decisions through travel.”

“Previous cases have also shown us that closing airports, cancelling flights and closing borders often has a greater economic impact than the outbreak itself.”

“The most effective management of a crisis requires rapid activation of effective emergency plans, and we can see that in the early days of this outbreak, the Chinese government has acted rapidly.”

“However, quick, accurate and transparent communication is also crucial in order to contain panic and mitigate negative economic losses. Containing the spread of unnecessary panic is as important as stopping the virus itself.”

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