Resurgence of coronavirus sends chill through hot summer tourism market

Hu Min Yu Linxia
Travel agents are busy issuing refunds as tourism sites close and authorities order stricter coronavirus control measures.
Hu Min Yu Linxia

The domestic tourism market in China has experienced an unexpected and abrupt summer "chill." The new coronavirus outbreak in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, has been a heavy blow for the fragile market which was on track for recovery with the waning of the pandemic.

The summer holiday period is traditionally a peak for travel due to the surging number of family tourists with children, however the latest outbreaks of the coronavirus across the nation changed things suddenly.

"This year's summer travel peak, which started around July 10, only lasted about 10 days, and cancellation requests have kept swarming in, marking the end of the summer tourism season," said Zhou Weihong, deputy general manager of Shanghai Spring Tour.

The city of Zhuzhou in central China's Hunan Province has closed cinemas, entertainment venues and tourist sites after it reported new asymptomatic coronavirus infections on Friday, and the city of Zhangjiajie in the same province has also closed all its tourist sites.

Zhengzhou in central China's Henan Province has suspended the operation of all A-level tourist attractions.

Tourism operators have been offering full refunds or free booking changes for travelers to high- and medium-risk COVID-19 regions since late July following a wave of new cases in some domestic cities.

"Even the mothers of my son's classmates started introducing me to new jobs in fear that I could not survive," said a staffer at a big online travel operator who wanted to remain anonymous.

"It is really difficult for the recovery of the tourism industry and its staff," she said. 

Resurgence of coronavirus sends chill through hot summer tourism market
Yu Linxia / SHINE

An empty travel agency outlet in Xujiahui as most cancellations are made online.

Amy Wang, a local media staffer, recently canceled a trip to Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region for which she had purchased air tickets and booked most accommodation.

"I planned to travel along Duku Highway and the only travel season is summer, which is really a regret now and I have to postpone it to next year," said Wang.

Customer service staff of travel operators are busy handling an avalanche of cancellations, working more than 10 hours daily for over a week.

"The upsurge of the virus incurs heavy financial losses," said a worker at an outlet of Shanghai-based which has been bombarded by refund claims.

Also, the worker said, travel bookings are almost closed for the next two months to protect tourists' safety and the actual date of resumption is yet to be advised.

A staffer at an outlet of Haitian Travel Agency in Xujiahui area said they were busy, but not with bookings.

"We are busy handling refund requests, and about 30,000 to 50,000 such requests have been made daily to our company since the Nanjing outbreak," she said.

Resurgence of coronavirus sends chill through hot summer tourism market
Yu Linxia / SHINE

An empty travel agency outlet in Xujiahui as most cancellations are made online.

"Most schools have required students not to make inter-provincial trips, and almost all orders involving children have been cancelled through the summer vacation," said a staffer with online travel operator Tuniu.

"Tourists' consumption confidence is affected in the short term, and long-distance trips are particularly hit," said Cheng Chaogong, a tourism researcher.

Shanghai authorities have ordered stronger and stricter measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Cultural and tourist venues across the city should impose strict reservation, registration, temperature and health QR code checks, and control visitor numbers, Shanghai Administration of Culture and Tourism ordered.

They should ensure that visitor information can be tracked via health QR code, identity card, or reservation and registration, the administration said.

Travel agencies and online travel operators have been banned from organizing tours to high- and medium-risk regions or conducting related air ticket and hotel business.

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