Chinese tourists have become increasingly adventurous since their economy surged over the last two decades. They now make up the largest contingent of foreign tourist arrivals in many parts of Asia, and are also travelling in increasing numbers to Europe and North America and Africa.
But following the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus that originated in China, many Chinese are cancelling or delaying their travel plans, as authorities impose travel restrictions. And with the numbers of deaths and infections climbing, some tour operators in Asia say about the only thing that is travelling right now is the virus itself.
And that is hurting economies across the region.
“It’s gonna be a tough few months for the tourism industry,” Jeremy Mak, an independent tour guide in Malaysia, tells Al Jazeera.
Several major airlines in the United States have suspended flights to and from mainland China and Hong Kong. Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s main carrier, Cathay Pacific Airways, has asked its 27,000 employees to take three weeks of unpaid leave after the airline cut about 30 percent of its overall capacity, and 90 percent of its flights to the mainland.
At least 304 people in China have died from the virus, which has infected more than 14,500 worldwide – mostly in China.