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Published on Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Coronavirus: UK tourism has already lost 20,000 bookings







The coronavirus outbreak has already hit UK tourism to the tune of 20,000 cancellations and £35 million.

That was the estimate given by Tom Jenkins, CEO of ETOA, who was speaking from the ETOA Britain & Ireland Marketplace on Tuesday.

"Everyone's thoughts are with the Chinese people at a time of national crisis. However, fast the Coronavirus is spreading, the impact is spreading faster and wider. Fear, especially combined with government travel bans, is a powerful deterrent to tourism," he said.

Following the decision by the Chinese authorities to ban the sale of international group travel from the start of this week, ETOA estimates that 60% of the expected Chinese New Year tours to Europe will be cancelled.

"So, with caution, it is possible that two-thirds of the visitors expected to arrive in Europe over this period have not done so," said Jenkins.

"Using an estimate of the number of Schengen visas issued in 2019 and data from Visit Britain it is possible to make an estimate. In numerical terms, this is about 170,000 cancellations in Europe, of which 20,000 are being lost by the UK. In financial terms this is €340million of lost revenue, of which £35m is being lost in the UK.

"These are last minute cancellations - some within 24 hours - releasing space when there is little alternative demand," he continued.

"They are concentrated, like much low season business, in a few areas. So the commercial pain experienced is considerable. It is probable that these clients are deferring their visit. There is no indication that they are permanently erasing their intentions to come here. We should expect a subsequent surge in bookings when the scare is over. The impact of SARS was substantial in 2002-3, but the recovery was robust within five months."

He said it's times like these when origin markets find out who their friends are.

"We need to look to the future health of the market. It may not be possible to give the right answer, but the question has to be posed: 'How can we best support our Chinese clients?' The nature and speed of the recovery will be determined by how we react now.

"We also need to stress that Europe - and the UK will continue to be viewed as part of Europe by long haul markets - remains virtually free of Coronavirus. It needs to be free of the even more contagious and damaging threat of fear."


Latest figures show 132 people have died and 6,000 have been infected in mainland China. British Airways has suspended all flights to and from mainland China.

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