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Global Times

Outbreak in Beijing forces people to cancel plans, seek refunds

Global Times

By Ma Jingjing and Zhang Dan Source:Global Times Published: 2020/6/17 19:28:41

New COVID-19 outbreak in Beijing is likely to deal a blow to the revival of its tourism sector, with an analyst predicting a 30-40 percent year-on-year drop in revenue during the three-day Dragon Boat Festival holiday next week.

"So far, we've refunded 20 percent bookings for hotels and scenic spots on our online platform, and 50 percent bookings for air tickets from Beijing visitors," Xu Xiaolei, marketing manager at China's CYTS Tours Holding Co, told the Global Times Wednesday.

Most of those bookings were within individual provinces, Xu said. CYTS is trying to prevent coronavirus spread by reducing the size of group tours and ensuring the safety of food supplies.

There's been a spike in COVID-19 infections in Beijing, and the city on Tuesday raised its COVID-19 emergency response status to level II, under which residents must test negative for the virus via a nucleic acid sampling within seven days of departure from the city. This, along with much stricter quarantine rules Beijing residents will face in other places, forced many to cancel their travel plans.

A Beijing-based white-collar worker surnamed Yang told the Global Times on Wednesday that he'd planned a long-distance road trip in Southwest China's Sichuan Province from June 25-27. But he cancelled tickets to and from Beijing, as well as plans to rent camera equipment, both at a cost, after Beijing tightened its coronavirus prevention measures.

"It's sad ... I've been planning the trip for a year. But it's my responsibility to contribute my part to the national campaign in fighting the COVID-19," Yang said, noting that he is unwilling to see China become high-risk region like many foreign countries.

Prior to the abrupt rise in new infections, the capital lowered its emergency response level on June 6, which permits group tours to other provinces and cities in the mainland.

Chinese guesthouse booking platform Tujia told the Global Times that as of June 12, bookings during the Dragon Boat Festival recovered to 65 percent of last year's level, and they'd been expected to peak on June 25. It said short-distance trips to suburban areas are hot.

At that time, Beijing-based consulting and research firm Analysys said that Chinese people were to make 70 million trips across the country during the festival, with tourism revenue hitting 20 billion yuan ($2.82 billion).

However, Song Ding, a research fellow at the Shenzhen-based China Development Institute, told the Global Times Wednesday that the domestic tourism sector is expected to post 30-40 percent in revenue drop during the upcoming Dragon Boat Festival and stay at the same level as the May Day holiday, as the new outbreak in Beijing will dent tourism revenue.

On Wednesday, tour groups departing from Beijing couldn't be booked on domestic online tour operators, including Ctrip and Mafengwo, which read "this product is not open for booking, impacted by the COVID-19."

During the Dragon Boat Festival, people living in other provinces and cities where there are almost no new infections may travel as they have planned, Yang Jingsong, a senior researcher at the China Tourism Academy, told the Global Times. "The recent COVID-19 outbreak is regional instead of national, and therefore people in the rest of China may not be nervous," he said.

China saw a total of 95.98 million domestic tourist trips during the Dragon Boat Festival in 2019, up 7.7 percent year-on-year, official data showed. National tourism revenue stood at 39.3 billion yuan, up 8.6 percent year-on-year.

"If the new outbreak in Beijing can be controlled in one to two months, the domestic tourism sector may steadily recover and may reach its peak during the National Day holiday in October," Song said.

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