Coronavirus and its posed threat to people’s lives has been omnipresent for the last month. The effects on health are understandably the most concerning, but it is also worth noting how the outbreak has affected travel companies and the economy.
There are several things that could put you off a planned holiday – safety threats, lack of funds, weather disruption – but one of the more serious ones at the moment is the threat of catching Coronavirus (COVID-19). The U.K. Foreign Office recently changed its guidelines for travelling to Northern Italy, strongly urging not to travel to certain towns unless absolutely necessary in the wake of over 400 confirmed cases of Coronavirus reported. There are 11 towns on lockdown in Northern Italy, and cases spreading to Austria, Croatia, France and Greece. The World Health Organisation has stated that the world is “not ready” for a pandemic.
This has also had a severe effect on tourism within Europe. Venice, usually a tourist hub, is quiet, especially after Venice Carnival was stopped early on 23rd February. Milan Fashion Week has also been postponed along with 40 football matches, all of which would have attracted a number of visitors to Italy. A lack of tourists means a lack of income for those who run hotels, city or culture tours and other travel-specific companies. This goes beyond Italy; the number of people travelling from China to Europe has understandably dropped by 41.7% after the travel restrictions were introduced.
It’s difficult to know how long the impact will last. After SARS, the last major disease outbreak in 2003, normal travel rates didn’t recover for six months out of fear of infection. Travel airlines have attempted to continue travel within Europe as normal, with some shuffling to avoid travelling around Milan and Northern Italy and some are also offering rebooking or refunds for those who wish to suspend their travel. However, travel to Asia has been significantly affected, causing some companies such as German airline Lufthansa to cut 25% of its shorter flights due to lack of passengers. British Airways’ parent company IAG have even stated that the impact may prevent them making any profits in 2020. The effect has also been felt by travel centres, tour operators and travel insurance companies.
Other companies apart from the travel industry have also been affected, with many multi-national companies such as Estée Lauder, Orange and BMW preventing employees travelling to countries affected by the outbreak, whereas Nestle and L’Oréal have suspended all international travel for their companies.
It’s obviously important to stay safe in the current climate, and you can’t blame potential tourists for being skittish at the thought of catching Coronavirus whilst on holiday. However, with the Easter break looming and the summer months about five months away, it’s difficult to know how much this could affect travel companies and the world economy as the number of people travelling continues to drop.
If you have any worries about Coronavirus in Italy you can find Foreign Office advice here: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/italy/health and more general travel advice here: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
The UK Government is regularly updating the following website with the most up-to-date information on the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, with travel and other important information: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public.