The outbreak of coronavirus in China may have a lasting economic impact on the global tourism sector. Gloria Guevara, Chief Executive, World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) released a statement saying the damage caused could be significant unless lessons are learned from previous viral epidemics.
Speaking about the virus, she said: While the risk of exposure for travelers and tourists is still low, we are naturally concerned about those who have been affected already. Experience has taught us that global coordination and cooperation, with collaboration between the public and private sector, is going to be vital in containing the spread of the coronavirus throughout China and beyond.”
Economic losses are unavoidable in such circumstances
Guevera, who was the former tourism minister for Mexico, was closely involved in 2010 with the aftermath, and then recovery, of the Mexican outbreak of the H1N1 influenza virus in 2009. Thousands died due to the incident, which is why she is urging the global community to be more cautious this time around. She added, “We analyse many global crises within WTTC and previous cases have shown us that the economic losses from health epidemics are avoidable, through the effective use of crisis preparedness and management procedures, as well as through managing public panic and making rational decisions through travel.”
Experts from WTTC analyzed previous viral epidemics and found that the average recovery time for visitor numbers to a destination was 19 months. However, with the right response and management, they could recover in as little as ten months. Guevera also discussed the economic impact of the cancellation of flights and the closing of airports.
She said: “Previous cases have also shown us that closing airports, cancelling flights and closing borders often have a greater economic impact than the outbreak itself. The most effective management of a crisis requires rapid activation of effective emergency plans, and we can see that in the early days of this outbreak, the Chinese government has acted rapidly. However, quick, accurate and transparent communication is also crucial in order to contain panic and mitigate negative economic losses. Containing the spread of unnecessary panic is as important as stopping the virus itself.”