Travel experts are expecting 2020 and even 2021 to be terrible for the industry due to the coronavirus outbreak. They expect many people will put off travel that they had planned as they wait for the pandemic to pass, however experts believe that the coronavirus will be will us past the cold and flu season and persist into at least 2021.
Even as infections of the novel coronavirus seemed to be slowing at one point last week, the effects of the epidemic on the global tourism industry were accelerating rapidly.
The impact of the pneumonia-like disease caused by the COVID-19 virus is already being felt across Asia, where leisure and business travel contributed $884 billion to gross domestic product in 2017, the most recent year for data compiled by the World Travel and Tourism Council. (Estimates for 2018 are about $1 trillion.) For China alone, inbound tourism brought in $127.3 billion in 2019, its tourism bureau says.
But as the diagnoses tick upward again, travel agents, operators and hoteliers are bracing for months, if not a full year, of economic disruption from the outbreak, with long-term effects that may ripple well into 2021.
“The numbers of trip cancellations — not just to China but to the entire continent of Asia — is growing every day,” says Jack Ezon, founder and managing partner of luxury travel agency Embark Beyond. “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.’”
So far, almost 75 percent of his travelers have canceled their February and March departures to Southeast Asia, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still considers to have a lower, level one risk for the coronavirus. “They’re worried about being anywhere close to the outbreak,” he says, “or of getting stuck with canceled flights if other hubs become infected.” A full 100 percent of the honeymoons his agency had booked to the region have been canceled and rebooked for alternate destinations, including the Maldives, southern Africa, and Australia.