Washington Post/Bloomberg News:  Travel restrictions tied to the coronavirus stall travel to U.S.

Travel restrictions tied to the coronavirus stall travel to U.S.

Lori Aratani

The number of visitors coming to the United States from China could drop by as much as 28 percent this year, according to a new report examining the impact the coronavirus may have on the country’s tourism industry.

Travel between the two countries has been all but shut down, as U.S. officials work to prevent the spread of the virus, which, as of Wednesday, has infected more than 24,000 people, killing 490, in China. Two people have died in Hong Kong and the Philippines; 11 people in the United States have been diagnosed with the virus.

Three major U.S. airlines — American, Delta and United — have halted all flights between China and the United States, and foreign nationals who have been in Hubei province, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, are no longer being allowed to enter the country. American citizens and green-card holders who have been in that region in the past 14 days are allowed to enter the United States but are required to be quarantined for two weeks.

Tourism Economics modeled its estimates on data from the 2003 SARS epidemic to estimate the impact the coronavirus could have on U.S. tourism. It noted that SARS, like the coronavirus, was also first diagnosed in China and spurred tighter visa restrictions and entry procedures as countries around the world sought to contain its spread.

The United States has become a popular destination for Chinese tourists. Visits from China to the United States have increased nearly 13-fold since 2002. As a result, the company said, the coronavirus’s impact could be far more significant than that of SARS. Tourism Economics found that last year an estimated 2.8 million people from China came to the United States.

The report estimated that the country could lose roughly 1.6 million visits from China as a result of the coronavirus, with more than half — 56 percent — occurring in 2020. The number of visits will probably rebound in the latter part of 2020 and accelerate in 2021, but it could take as long as four years for a full recovery.

States most hurt by the drop in Chinese tourism are California and New York, the report said. In California, nearly 20 percent of overseas visitors come from China. Utah and Oregon are also popular destinations, the report found.

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A separate report from Hopper, a travel booking app, found a significant drop in interest in travel between the United States and China. The analysis noted that since the start of the outbreak, search demand for travel from the United States to China dropped more than 58 percent, compared with the same time period in 2019.

Hopper analyzed airfare prices and flight searches to determine the impact of the coronavirus.  Before the outbreak, an estimated 4,000 seats were available on flights between the United States and China each day for the next two months, the report found. Roughly 20 percent of those seats were on flights operated by Cathay Pacific; 18 percent were on flights operated by United Airlines. In all, Hopper estimated that more than 175,500 travelers from China were expected to visit the United States over the Lunar New Year holiday. Nearly 30 percent of those visitors were expected to arrive in Los Angeles.

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