Covid-19 News: Live Updates – The New York Times
It was supposed to be the year of returning from the trip. In Europe and Asia, many countries have reopened their airports and welcomed tourists. But they are faced with a new reality: Variants like Omicron are causing global panic, leading governments to close borders again, and their biggest spenders – Chinese tourists – are not coming back anytime soon.
As part of its efforts to maintain a zero Covid approach, China has announced that international flights will be kept at 2.2% of pre-Covid levels during the winter. Since August, it has almost entirely stopped issuing new passports and imposed a 14-day quarantine on all arrivals. Returning to China also requires mountains of paperwork and multiple Covid-19 tests.
A lot of people there decided to stay put. Result: shopping centers have emptied, restaurants have closed and hotels are deserted. This is another blow to an industry that is just beginning to recover. The slowdown particularly affects North and Southeast Asia.
No country has been more crucial for global travel over the past decade than China. Chinese tourists spent around $ 260 billion in 2019, surpassing all other nationalities. Their prolonged absence would mean that travel income is not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels soon.
Analysts say it could be up to two years before China fully reopens.
In Europe, Chinese visitors have become an increasingly important market in recent years. At the Sherlock Holmes Museum in London, for example, around 1,000 people visited each day at its peak, and at least half of them were from China, said Paul Leharne, the museum’s supervisor.
Since its reopening on May 17, the museum has attracted only 10% of its usual staff. This year, he opened an online store to sell merchandise and souvenirs, about a third of which ship to China, he said.
“We really feel their absence,” said Alfonsina Russo, director of the Coliseum in Rome, referring to Chinese tourists.
In Vietnam, the pandemic has caused more than 95% of tourism businesses to close or suspend their activities, according to the government.
At Bangkok’s Or Tor Kor fruit market, where masses of Chinese tourists once gathered around tables to eat durian, business has come to a standstill. Phakamon Thadawatthanachok, a durian vendor, said she keeps 300 to 400 kilograms of prickly fruits in stock and needs to restock them three to four times a week to meet demand. Now she had to take out a loan just to make ends meet.
“The loss of income is immeasurable, ”she said. “At the moment, we are only hanging on to the hope that it will one day improve.”