Tourism at receiving end of coronavirus outbreak

Published On: January 29, 2020 08:39 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, Jan 29: Nepal will have to withstand adverse impacts in number of its macroeconomic areas with an increasing threat of coronavirus which has claimed over 100 human lives and infected more than 4,500 people in China alone.

The northern neighbor is battling to combat the disease while Nepali authorities are also under pressure to implement preventive measures to control possible spread of the disease in the country.

Analysts say the obvious impact of outbreak of the disease is on Nepal's tourism sector while the country has just started celebrating the Visit Nepal Year 2020 campaign. According to them, coronavirus outbreak will cause the number of Chinese visitors to go down significantly while also affecting third country arrivals. Also, it will make impact on foreign investment and bilateral trade with China, they added.

“Third-country visitors will be wary of visiting Nepal as the country shares border with China. Also, these tourists could consider the weak preventive measures that Nepal had taken due to poor infrastructure to cope with similar cases in the past,” Dipendra Bahadur Chhetri, an economist, told Republica.

According to the World Health Organization, the coronavirus is similar to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic which killed hundreds of people in 2002 and 2003. Three cases of coronavirus have been suspected in the country so far, government record shows. 

The government has started a campaign against the disease taking preventive measures right at the Tribhuvan International Airport – the main entry point for air passengers visiting Nepal.

 Chhetri said expedition teams, in particular, could defer the date for visiting Nepal. “As these visitors do not take risk during such period, they are likely to cancel the bookings which will largely affect the country's tourism business,” he added. He also said that the outbreak could also have a nominal impact on the inflow of foreign investment as the potential Chinese investors could postpone their plan for the time being. 

Citing the sensitiveness arising from the outbreak, even the China Tourism Association on Saturday announced a halt of all outbound tourist groups from Monday. The travel limitation will also hit the Nepali tourism sector that is expecting to welcome two million international tourists in 2020.

Keshab Acharya, a former economic advisor to the government, said the situation will affect the movement of Nepal-bound visitors who have been using China cities as the transit for their travel. 

According to the tourism entrepreneurs, many third country tourists in recent days have been transiting via Chinese cities due to low airfare. “The situation obviously will affect movement of these tourists,” Acharya added.

He said that the outbreak could also affect nominally the bilateral trade with China as the authorities have taken move to restrict cross border movement via Nepal-China borders. “In addition, traders wont' take the risk of visiting China to purchase and sell goods,” Acharya added.

Meanwhile, a joint meeting of authorities of the two countries held on Tuesday has decided to restrict the cross-border movement via Rasuwagadhi-Kerung for next few weeks. 

The statistics of the Trade and Export Promotion Centre shows that China is one of the major trading partners of Nepal. In FY2018/19, Nepal exported goods worth Rs 2.58 billion to China, while imports from China stood at Rs 214.80 billion.


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