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Coronavirus Outbreak Costing Global Tourism Billions



Hotels, airlines and cruise lines are some of the businesses taking a major hit as the coronavirus outbreak continues to restrict travel from China during the Lunar New Year, one of Asia’s busiest travel seasons.

The virus has killed dozens and sickened thousands since it was first discovered in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. Subsequent restrictions preventing tens of millions of Chinese residents from traveling outside of the country have compounded ongoing protests in Hong Kong and the nation’s trade dispute with the U.S., among other factors.

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Citing data from the International Monetary Fund, the Associated Press reported that China accounted for 16.3 percent of world economic output last year, compared to just 4.3 percent during the SARS outbreak in 2003.

“GlobalData figures show that China has grown from the fourth largest source market in the world, with 47.7 million outbound tourists in 2009, to become the largest, with a staggering 159 million outbound tourists in 2019. This accounted for 12.2 percent of all outbound travelers globally. Furthermore, the Chinese outbound market was the second-highest spending in 2019, with expenditure of $275 billion,” said Ben Cordwell, Travel & Tourism Analyst at GlobalData, in a statement on Tuesday.

Asian hotspots such as Hong Kong, Thailand, Japan and Vietnam are likely to be the most negatively affected while places like the U.S. and Europe could feel a greater impact if the outbreak is long-lasting.

Officials in Thailand estimate potential lost revenue at 50 billion baht ($1.6 billion), according to the AP.

China is currently the fifth-largest source of foreign tourism to the U.S., with roughly 3 million Chinese travelers visiting the country in 2018 and spending more than $36 billion in the process. New York City, in particular, could be hit hard if the outbreak sustains, as China is the city’s second-largest source of foreign visitors.

“The tourism industry is already facing a number of headwinds, including ongoing uncertainty over the terms of the U.K.’s upcoming Brexit withdrawal and intensifying geopolitical tensions between a number of powerful nations,” added Cordwell. “These factors, combined with the coronavirus outbreak, could mean a tough year lies ahead for the international tourism industry.”

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U.S. State Department Stops Issuing Passports Amid COVID-19



The U.S. Department of State has scaled back its Passport Agency operations and will no longer be issuing new passports in view of the situation surrounding the still-escalating COVID-19 pandemic.

Travel + Leisure pointed out that the release of this directive in late March coincided with the State Department’s issuance of a Level 4 travel advisory, which warns Americans to avoid all international travel and instructing those outside U.S. borders to return home immediately or risk being stranded abroad for an indefinite period of time.

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The Passport Divisions’ recent policy change mentioned that those who had already applied to obtain a new passport or renew an existing one prior to March 20, 2020, will not have their orders affected. The agency said that it would honor its commitment to fulfilling those expedited-service orders placed on or before March 19 within two to three weeks, door-to-door.

Moving forward, passports will be available only to persons facing qualifying life-or-death emergencies, such as serious illnesses, injuries or deaths in their immediate family, which require them to travel outside the United States within 72 hours’ time.

Such persons will need to not only provide their passport application and supporting documents, and proof of planned international travel (e.g. reservation, ticket or itinerary), but also proof of the life-or-death circumstance. This might include documents like a death certificate, a statement from a mortuary, or a signed letter from a hospital or medical professional, and must be translated into English.

To make an appointment at a passport center in the event of a life-or-death emergency, one must call the National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778, Monday through Friday, between the hours of 8:00 a. m. and 5:00 p.m., or Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (EST); or call (202) 647-4000 outside of regular business hours.

No indication was given as to when the State Department would again begin accepting passport applications. As is now the case among most organizations that are attempting to respond to the continually evolving pandemic, its future plans remain up in the air. The announcement only stated, “The status of our operations may change quickly. We will update this notice as the status changes.”

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