February 13, 2020 / 9:11 AM / 11 days ago

Coronavirus travel slowdown spreads from China across Asia-study

FILE PHOTO: A foreign traveller wearing a mask walks past a departures information board at Beijing International Airport in Beijing, China as the country is hit by an outbreak of the new coronavirus, February 1, 2020. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - The coronavirus outbreak is causing travel demand across the whole Asia Pacific region to slump, data showed on Thursday, as the impact of the flu-like illness on future bookings spreads beyond China.

ForwardKeys, a travel analytic company, said that airline bookings from across the region were 10.5% lower for March and April 2020 compared with last year. That drop excludes trips to and from China and Hong Kong.

Deaths from the virus rose to 1,350 on Thursday and airlines are bracing for lower ticket sales as worries over the virus’s spread hit appetite for travel and caused conferences and events to be scrapped.

Mobile World Congress, an annual telecoms industry gathering of 100,000 people, for example, was canceled on Wednesday.

Outbound travel from Japanese and South Korean markets were the worst hit, with bookings to worldwide destinations down 17% for the next two months, compared with the same period in 2019, showed ForwardKeys data.

Dozens of airlines, including American Airlines (AAL.O) and British Airways (ICAG.L), have already suspended all their flights to China until April as demand from the world’s No.2 economy plunged and internal travel restrictions took hold.

The data showed that outbound bookings from China to other parts of the world for March and April were almost half what they were for the same period last year.

“The world’s largest and highest spending outbound travel market, China, is in severe difficulty; cancellations are growing by the day and the trend is now spreading to surrounding countries,” said Olivier Ponti, vice president of insights at ForwardKeys.

Reporting by Sarah Young; Editing by Alex Richardson

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