Asia Minute: Coronavirus Hitting Regional Tourism

Feb 20, 2020

The longer the coronavirus lingers, the more of a concern it becomes as a potential threat to global tourism. While that has not yet emerged as a focus in Hawaii, it’s already hitting destinations in the Asia Pacific.

Air travel from China has collapsed as the novel coronavirus continues to play out. And while China is not a big tourist market for Hawaii, it is hugely important for several regional economies — including Japan and Thailand.

Those two countries were mentioned in a recent report from a UN agency that tracks air travel.

The International Civil Aviation Organization says both Japan and Thailand are likely to lose more than a billion dollars in tourism revenue in the first quarter of this year directly because of a fall in visitors from China.

The situation is more desperate in Hong Kong, where figures released Wednesday show the average occupancy rate for Hong Kong hotels has now fallen below 10%. That’s far worse than it was even at the height of the SARS crisis in 2003.

The head of the Federation of Hong Kong Hotel Owners warns that February and March will be the months that determine whether many operations can stay in business. He told the South China Morning Post that the Finance Secretary’s budget expected to be released next week needs to include relief measures for the city’s hospitality industry.

Government arrival figures show that a year ago, the daily flow of visitors to Hong Kong averaged 200,000 people.

So far this month, that is down to 3,000.