Southeast Asian countries brace for billions in tourism losses
YANGON, Myanmar — Across Southeast Asian cities like this one, tourism officials are bracing for a devastating impact from the loss of millions of Chinese tourists who are effectively under lockdown in their virus-hit provinces.
Vietnamese state media on Friday said the country could face losses between $5.9 billion and $7.7 billion in tourism earnings, as Chinese and other international travelers stay away. The Voice of Vietnam radio station said authorities expect 2 million fewer Chinese tourists to visit, accounting for about a quarter of those losses. Vietnam has halted all air travel to neighboring China, suspended visas for foreigners who have visited mainland China and will stop issuing visas to Chinese tourists.
Indonesia, meanwhile, has warned of tourism losses of up to $4 billion in a worst-case scenario, according to Reuters, quoting the country’s tourism minister. The island of Bali, a popular beach destination, had received 10,000 cancellations by the end of January, Reuters reported. Tourism accounts for about 6 percent of Indonesia’s gross domestic product.
In Myanmar, meanwhile, the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism has asked tour operators and travel companies to suspend services to Chinese travelers. Awkwardly, the request came after Chinese President Xi Jinping made a major trip to the country last month to celebrate 70 years of diplomatic ties and launch a Myanmar-China “tourism year” with a goal of encouraging visitors to travel between the two places.
Visa-on-arrival services have also been suspended for Chinese travelers. Chinese tourists are among the top visitors to Myanmar, and there is significant border trade between the two countries.
The restrictions are likely to have a significant impact on Myanmar’s economy. Fitch Solutions, a macroeconomic research unit under the Fitch Group, revised its forecast for Myanmar’s GDP growth to 6.3 percent, down from 6.5 percent, largely due to the slowdown in tourism.