China is the world’s largest source of outbound tourists. But travel bans, suspended flights, and government advisories are keeping many would-be tourists from mainland China at home – with their tourist dollars.
That means regional economies with traditionally high volumes of Chinese tourists are losing a lot of what used to be steady business and, in some of those markets, such as Singapore, many in the country are staying home for fear of the spreading coronavirus – delivering a one-two punch to many local businesses.
Tourists from mainland China make up about one-fifth of all visitors to Singapore.
Despite its strong links with China, Singapore was among the first countries to impose a travel ban on Chinese visitors following the outbreak of the virus.
Air travel from China to Asian destinations such as Thailand, Japan, Malaysia and Indonesia was booming in recent years.
But that has changed abruptly since the coronavirus outbreak, and its impact is also being felt in cities from Australia to the US and Europe that traditionally see high volumes of Chinese travellers.
“You’re seeing massive capacity cuts by airlines”, Greg Waldron, Asia managing editor of aviation news site FlightGlobal, told Al Jazeera.
“It’s terrible for the airlines, it’s terrible for the hotels and businesses in the destination cities”.
On Friday in Singapore, the country’s Ministry of Health raised its risk assessment for the coronavirus to the second-highest level, meaning the disease is severe but has not spread widely. There are at least 30 confirmed cases of infections in Singapore so far, including six Chinese and five Singaporean nationals.
In the city-state’s Chinatown neighbourhood, merchants say business is down by 50 percent or more.
At Wan Nian Stone Pot Fish restaurant, Patrick Xie wears a face mask as he stands at the door waiting for customers. Business is less than half the normal level, he said.
“It’s because of the virus, people get paranoid and don’t come out to eat”, he told Al Jazeera. “You see a decline in tourists, you see a decline in locals”.