Coronavirus travel slowdown spreads from China across Asia: Study

In a photo taken on Feb 7, 2020, a passenger wears a protective mask as he walks through Hong Kong International Airport. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - The coronavirus outbreak is causing travel demand across the whole Asia Pacific region to slump, data showed on Thursday (Feb 13), as the impact of the flu-like illness on future bookings spreads beyond China.

ForwardKeys, a travel analytic company, said that airline bookings from across the region were 10.5 per cent lower for March and April 2020 compared with last year. That drop excludes trips to and from China and Hong Kong.

Deaths from the virus rose to 1,350 on Thursday and airlines are bracing for lower ticket sales as worries over the virus's spread hit appetite for travel and caused conferences and events to be scrapped.

Mobile World Congress, an annual telecoms industry gathering of 100,000 people, for example, was cancelled on Wednesday.

Outbound travel from Japanese and South Korean markets were the worst hit, with bookings to worldwide destinations down 17 per cent for the next two months, compared with the same period in 2019, showed ForwardKeys data.

Dozens of airlines, including American Airlines and British Airways, have already suspended all their flights to China until April as demand from the world's No. 2 economy plunged and internal travel restrictions took hold.

The data showed that outbound bookings from China to other parts of the world for March and April were almost half what they were for the same period last year.

"The world's largest and highest spending outbound travel market, China, is in severe difficulty; cancellations are growing by the day and the trend is now spreading to surrounding countries," said Mr Olivier Ponti, vice-president of insights at ForwardKeys.

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