Shares of Asian airlines tumble on fear that Paris attacks will curb tourism

A woman walking past a Cathay Pacific Airways check-in counter at Chek Lap Kok International Airport in Hong Kong. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Shares of airline operators across Asia tumbled on Monday (Nov 16) on worries that the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris will deter tourists from traveling to the French capital.

Eva Airways of Taiwan dropped as much as 9.2 per cent on Monday morning and was down 6.2 per cent at NT$17.35 as of 11.41am local time, while China Southern Airlines was down 2.6 per cent in Hong Kong to HK$5.91.

China Eastern Airlines and Hainan Airlines were down 4.1 per cent and 2.2 per cent, respectively, while Cathay Pacific Airways was down 2.3 per cent. Shares of Shanghai Jin Jiang International Hotels Group, owner of France's Louvre Hotels Group, were down 6.9 per cent in Hong Kong to HK$2.82.

"There will definitely be a negative psychological impact in the short term in tourism-related sectors. Airlines are particularly affected," said Zhang Qi, a Shanghai-based analyst with Haitong Securities Co. The situation in France is "still quite uncertain now, so investors seem to be broadly risk-off today".

The impact on Chinese tourism to France could last as long as a year, with many tourists likely to cancel or change trips to Europe generally, China International Capital Corp said in a note. However, the fact that the fourth quarter tends to be slow for outbound Chinese tourism mitigates the impact, CICC said.

China's National Tourism Administration reported that all 1,299 Chinese tourists staying in Paris were safe as of Saturday, CICC said in its note.

Hong Kong issued an amber outbound travel alert for France on Saturday, but local agencies said they hadn't yet had to reschedule any groups heading for the French capital. Mr Simon Ma Sai-man, deputy general manager of Wing On Travel Holdings, said the company hadn't received any requests to cancel planned trips to Paris.

"Compared with the explosion in Bangkok this August," Mr Ma said, referring to a bombing at a popular temple in the Thai capital, "Paris is well defended after the attack."

Based on previous experience, he said, hotel rooms and flights cancelled under an amber travel alert wouldn't be eligible for refunds.

Mr Jason Wong Chun-tat, general manager of Hong Thai Travel Sevices in Hong Kong, said the agency does not have any groups of travellers entering Paris right now, and would keep an eye on possible travel restrictions when some of their groups are due to fly out of Paris in a few days.

JTB Corp, Japan's largest travel agent, canceled all France tours since Saturday, with plans to restart them on Tuesday. Customers who booked on tours through Nov 20 can cancel without penalty, spokesman Eri Yokoyama in Tokyo said. She would not specify how many tours or people had been affected, but said it was "a lot".

Hana Tour Service, South Korea's biggest travel agent, said it had received plenty of inquiries from customers but did not see cancellations over the weekend. Some clients have had to change their itineraries in Paris as museums and other tourist attractions have been closed or had access limited, the agency said.

A spokesman for Air China said all flight operations to Paris were proceeding as normal, but the airline was allowing passengers to change their tickets free of charge. Qantas Airways spokesman Sharna Rhys-Jones said the Australian airline also was allowing customers to reroute or reschedule flights to Paris, which go through Dubai.

China Eastern, China Southern and Cathay Pacific could not immediately be reached for comment.

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