The outbreak of the Wuhan virus may cost Thai and Asian tourism industries Bt100 billion in lost income, an economist has warned.
Preliminary estimates of the impact on tourism and related businesses in Thailand and other Asian nations are at around Bt80 billion to Bt100 billion, if the spread of the virus is contained by early March, Anusorn Tamajai, director of Economic and Business Research Centre at Rangsit University, said.
He warned that the impact could be more severe than that of SARS 17 years ago.
If the virus is not controlled by March, then the cost could be even higher, he said.
The Thai economy could expand by just 1.8 to 2.4 per cent in the first and second quarters, he said.
Asian economies this year may not recover to the average 6 per cent growth as expected and China’s growth may fall below 5.8 per cent.
The number of Chinese tourists are expected to drop by 1 to 2 million and foreign arrivals could be down by at least 2 per cent.
The Chinese government has already imposed travel restriction measures on Wuhan and other cities suspected of having cases of the new coronavirus infections.
The Thai government is targeting 41.8 million tourists this year with estimated revenue of Bt2.2 trillion, which will make Thailand one of the top six countries in terms of income from tourism.
The UN World Tourism Organisation had forecast that Asia’s tourism industry would expand by 7 per cent this year. However, the impact of the new coronavirus could slow growth to below 5 per cent, said Anusorn.
Speaking on a related issued, he said he did not agree with the Tourism and Sports Ministry’s proposal to offer cash handouts to foreign tourists. The government should instead allocate a budget to develop tourism sites and clean up air pollution, or PM 2.5 dust particles, he said.