Coronavirus: Vietnam bars tourists from virus-hit parts of South Korea

A man wearing a protective mask reads a newspaper at Da Nang airport in Vietnam, on Feb 23, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

HANOI/NHA TRANG, VIETNAM (REUTERS) - Vietnam banned tourists from coronavirus-hit areas of South Korea on Wednesday (Feb 26), a blow to a tourism industry already reeling from a collapse in Chinese visitor numbers.

The government said in a news release that people from those areas who needed to come to Vietnam for other reasons must be quarantined for 14 days when entering the country. The move came after the number of cases of the new coronavirus reported in South Korea rose above 1,100.

South Korea accounted for a quarter of Vietnam's 18 million tourists last year - the biggest group after Chinese visitors, whose travel had already been curtailed because of the virus.

In the southern resort of Nha Trang, beaches are empty, tour buses sit idle and many shops are shut down during what would normally be a busy season.

"All the hotels around here are almost empty," the owner of a hotel on Tran Phu Street in Nha Trang said by phone.

"All the Chinese tourists are gone, and now South Korean tourists are too."

Mr Le Trong Vinh, who runs the Nest Hospitality Group with five hotels in Nha Trang, said on Wednesday that more than 20 per cent of his guests had cancelled bookings in recent days.

The number of South Korean tourists to Nha Trang more than tripled last year to 305,000, local authorities said.

Vietnamese state media reported early this month that the coronavirus epidemic could wipe US$5.9 billion to US$7.7 billion (S$8.25 billion to S$10.77 billion) from Vietnam's tourism earnings in the next three months as international travellers stay away from the region.

Vietnam Airlines, Bamboo Airways and Vietjet have all scaled back flights to South Korea.

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