Travel experts fear long-term impact of virus | Article – Asia Times

February 17, 2020

Just when you thought things were going bad — according to travel experts, the outbreak of the coronavirus (now known as Covid-19) could impact tourism well into 2021, Rich Thomaselli of Travel Pulse reported.

Hilton CEO Chris Nassetta on Tuesday told investors, we’re only at the start of the impact of the disease and how it affects travel, the report said.

In other words, hold onto your hats, folks — this thing is not going away anytime soon, and the travel industry is going to bear the brunt of it.

“Three to six months of escalation and impact from the outbreak, and another three to six on recovery,” he told reporters, saying he estimates Hilton will take a loss of US$25 million to US$50 million this year, the report said.

Much of the impact has already hit Asia, where estimates business and leisure travel for 2018 are almost US$1 trillion, the report said.

“The numbers of trip cancellations — not just to China but to the entire continent of Asia — is growing every day,” Jack Ezon, founder and managing partner of luxury travel agency Embark Beyond, said.

“People are put off. Sadly, a lot of them are just saying, ‘I don’t know if I want to go anywhere right now.’ Or, in many cases, ‘I’ll just go next year.’”

“They’re worried about being anywhere close to the outbreak,” he says of the almost 75% of travelers who have canceled February and March departures to Southeast Asia. “Or (travelers are worried about) getting stuck with canceled flights if other hubs become infected.”

According to the New York Times, cruise companies have been reluctant to release any data about whether there has been any impact on bookings in the US$45.6 billion global industry in the weeks since the outbreak began in the Chinese city of Wuhan, but some travel advisers say they are off by 10 to 15%.

“The longer ships like the Diamond Princess stay in the press, the more people who have never taken a cruise before think of cruising as a less than ideal vacation,” said James Hardiman, the managing director of equity research for Wedbush Securities, who follows the industry.

For more than a week, the world has watched as the Diamond Princess ship has been quarantined in the Japanese port of Yokohama, its 3,600 passengers and crew stuck and the number of people infected by the coronavirus climbing to 218.