The tourism industry in China is close to panic mode.
The Lunar New Year holiday, which began last Saturday, is one of China’s busiest shopping and travel periods. Except that’s not happening because the growing coronavirus crisis, which is believed to have started in the city of Wuhan, has put a sudden stop to proceedings, and for China’s growing tourism industry, it’s terrible timing.
Quartz reports that airlines such as China Southern Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, and Air China have been ordered by the country’s government to cancel flights to and from Wuhan and give prospective passengers full refunds.
Last year, according to the Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism, tourism revenue hit 513.9 billion yuan ($78 billion) during the week of the festival, an increase of 8.2% year-on-year. More than 40% of tourists visited museums and galleries, while more than one in three attended a “cultural performance,” but this year, as an echo to the coronavirus epidemic spreading, many of the same attractions are closed or cancelled, like Shanghai’s Disney park, which was so full last Lunar New Year that it had to stop selling tickets. In Beijing, the iconic Forbidden City will also close to visitors, and all over the country temples have been shuttered and public transport systems suspended.
According to economic experts, China’s economy was already slowing before the outbreak, but if the coronavirus isn’t contained by March, GDP growth could slip below the symbolic 6% mark, experts said.
Up to date, the toll reads more than 80 people are dead and 56 million across China on lockdown, leaving millions more scared and ready to leave home, so the economic tolls of this worldwide scare is far from seeing its last movements.