Not unexpectedly, the spread of the coronavirus has hit Asian tourism hard. Major cruise lines are cancelling their sailings from Singapore or pulling out of Asia entirely for the remainder of the season. Some cancellations have come within the last several days, as more ports in the region shut their doors to cruise ships amid fears over the spread of the coronavirus. On the wider tourism scene, Asian countries are bracing themselves for the economic impact of the public health crisis in China. Indonesia will increase public spending and provide incentives to the tourism industry to support domestic consumption and shield the economy. Indian tour operators estimate that they could lose up to US$500 million (S$696 million) because of cancellations from tourists from China and other countries, a cost that could rise fourfold if it persists through the year.
The tourism sector in Singapore, too, faces tough times ahead. The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) is projecting a 25 per cent to 30 per cent drop in visitor arrivals this year. This expected impact is steeper than the 19 per cent decline in 2003, when Singapore suffered the effects from the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) outbreak. It is estimated that, every day, Singapore is losing an average of 18,000 to 20,000 international visitor arrivals. The STB is also preparing for a slower recovery than with Sars, which it took under a year to bounce back from. The Mice sector - meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions - is also feeling the squeeze, with several hundred events being postponed or cancelled. In terms of both intensity and expected duration, the impact of the coronavirus outbreak could come to dwarf that of Sars, terrible as that was.