London (United Kingdom) – February 14, 2020 (travelindex.com) – Individual tourists and groups from China and Asia must not be stigmatised because of the latest coronavirus outbreak, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).
The WTTC is warning against disproportionate reactions which could result in stigma and discrimination against Chinese and Asian tourists.
The panic, seen as a way of containing the coronavirus, could run the risk of stigmatising one of the world’s biggest tourist groups and may cause long-term harm.
The appeal for more understanding was made by the London-based WTTC which is led by the body’s President & CEO Gloria Guevara, and which represents the global Travel & Tourism private sector.
As former Mexican Tourism Minister, Ms. Guevara was closely involved in 2010 with the aftermath, and recovery, of the outbreak of the H1N1 influenza virus in 2009, which had a significant impact on Mexico’s economy and led to a number of fatalities.
While more than 40,000 people have so far tested positive with the virus worldwide, 98 per cent of cases are confined to China. This is thanks to a relatively low mortality rate of just 2% for the coronavirus compared with 10% for SARS and 34.4% for the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
Gloria Guevara, WTTC President & CEO, said: “We must not stigmatise. The coronavirus will not be solved by singling out individuals or groups from any country, such as China or those in other parts of Asia.
“While some of this misguided action may be well-meaning and it is clearly important the Travel & Tourism sector plays its part to contain the spread of the coronavirus, this will not be achieved by alienating the world’s biggest tourist group.
“China has become a key global player and its tourism market has experienced massive growth in recent years. Chinese tourists, travelling both individually and within groups account for 16% of the world’s international travel spending. More widely, Asia has experienced nearly 7% booming average annual growth in the sector over the last decade.
“There is no doubt that Travel & Tourism to and from China brings huge cultural and economic benefits to the world. At WTTC we believe the sector is a force for good and unites people no matter where they are from.”
WTTC statistics show the Chinese outbound Travel & Tourism spending has grown sevenfold in the last ten years, with a staggering annual growth of 21.7%. Each year the global Travel & Tourism sector contributes 10.4% (US$8.8 trillion) to global GDP and one in ten jobs.
The call to combat the stigmatisation of Chinese and Asian tourists follows praise from the WTTC for the work of public and private sectors working together to limit the spread of the coronavirus through flight and hotel reservation suspensions and flexible future travel options.
It also urged a continuing closer partnership between both sectors to help curtail travel in affected areas and improve education about the virus’ transmission to guard against panic measures. Closer public and private partnerships will also help aid the sector’s recovery once the spread of the virus begins to subside.
The Travel & Tourism sector has a proven track record of resilience in the face of crises and this ability to bounce back has improved significantly in recent years. In fact, according to our research the average recovery time from crises has decreased from 26 months to 10 months between 2001 and 2018.
An analysis of previous major viral epidemics by experts from WTTC, shows the average recovery time for visitor numbers to a destination was 19.4 months. However, with the right response and management it could recover in as little as 10 months.
WTTC advises travelers to check the advice being offered by individual governments and the World Health Organization before undertaking any overseas travel or domestic travel within coronavirus affected areas.