China’s war on a virus outbreak is battering Asian tourism industries that rely on free-spending Chinese visitors. Travel agencies were ordered on Jan. 24 to cancel group tours and Beijing told business people to stay home as it tried to contain the infection. Airlines canceled more than 25,000 flights. Revenue at hotels, restaurants, golf courses and shopping malls across the region tumbled. China usually supplies half of Thailand’s foreign tourists, but arrivals in the first 10 days of February fell 99% from a year earlier, according to the Association of Thai Travel Agents.
Hong Kong was hit even harder: Only 579 mainlanders arrived on Feb. 18, down from last year’s daily average of 200,000. Tourism is 20% of Thailand’s economy and supports millions of jobs in Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines. Credit Suisse says that reliance makes Singapore, Thailand and Hong Kong among Asia’s most vulnerable economies to the virus. Sales of autos and consumer goods are expected to rebound once the virus is under control, but a canceled vacation might not be rebooked. Thailand’s tourism minister says the industry should brace for this year’s number of visitors to fall by up to half.