China coronavirus: unchecked flow of Chinese tourists helped to spread the disease
- With most Lunar New Year travel having begun in the 15 days before the new year, bans and quarantines might have been too little, too late
- Sars spread to 37 countries when Chinese outbound tourism was a mere suggestion of the behemoth it has become
The timing is terrible. We are in the midst of the Lunar New Year period, the world’s biggest annual human migration, when hundreds of millions of Chinese return to distant homes or take holidays, both domestically and internationally.
Travel bans have been imposed on a number of cities in Hubei, affecting tens of millions of people, and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism ordered travel agencies and tour companies to stop selling tours of all description from January 24. However, many fear that was too little, too late, as the mass movement would have, as usual, begun 15 days before Lunar New Year’s day, which, this year, fell on January 25. In an interview with Caixin magazine, virologist Guan Yi, director of the State Key Laboratory of Emerging Infectious Diseases at the University of Hong Kong, said that the “golden time” to contain the virus had passed.
Back then, tourism outbound from mainland China was a mere suggestion of the behemoth it has since become. In 2002, tourists made just 17 million trips (including to Hong Kong and Macau) beyond the mainland’s borders, a number that rose to 20 million the following year. Compare that to the 180 million outbound adventures made in 2019, according to an estimate from China Outbound Tourism Research Institute.
With so much still unknown about the spread of the virus, including suggestions that there are those carrying it who show no symptoms but are still infectious, destinations popular with travellers from the Middle Kingdom are battening down the hatches, with some denying all entry.
The Philippines announced on January 23 that it was suspending all direct flights from Wuhan, going so far as to repatriate 464 travellers from the city, and all direct flights between Wuhan and Taiwan were cancelled from the same day. On January 24, Indonesia’s Transportation Ministry said that all flights operated by Indonesian airlines to and from Wuhan would be suspended.
Six of the top 10 ‘most Instagrammable places in 2020’ are in Asia
Of the continent’s challengers, Hong Kong came in highest, taking the second spot, behind Sydney, in Australia, while Singapore, Tokyo, Bali, Dubai and the capital of India’s Rajasthan state, Jaipur, also feature in the top 10 of the list, which was compiled by reference to the number of hashtags per destination, a survey of Big 7 Travel’s audience and votes cast by its editorial team.
The cruise ship too slow to fulfil its Southeast Asian mission
A technical issue with the Marella Discovery cruise ship has made it so slow it cannot call into all ports included on its all-inclusive, 14-night “Wonders of the Far East” Southeast Asia itinerary, reports British newspaper the Daily Express. Operated by TUI, the largest leisure, travel and tourism company in the world, the boat’s top speed has dropped from 24 to 16 knots, meaning passengers will have to spend an additional 31 hours at sea and miss the Thai island of Koh Samui and Malacca, in Malaysia. There were 10 stops on the original schedule, which covers sailings until March, including the Malaysian ports of Langkawi, Penang and Port Klang; Singapore; Laem Chabang, in Thailand; and Vietnam’s Phu My.
Arguing that the curtailment of the itinerary was not “significant”, TUI offered perturbed passengers, who had paid upwards of £1,888 (US$2,500) each for the excursion, £250 in compensation. However, according to online newspaper The Independent, not everyone was on board with that arrangement.
“I’m pretty infuriated with TUI and have now invested a great deal of time, money, effort and mental capital into pursuing them for a refund without any sign of success,” said one disappointed traveller, who was due to begin cruising on January 30.
TUI says it hopes to reinstate the Koh Samui stop for February, although when Malacca will make a reappearance has not been mentioned.