As China goes all out in its battle against the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, all domestic and outbound group tours have been indefinitely suspended starting Monday.
While the announcement by the China Association of Travel Services on Saturday does not apply to individual travel, it is expected to hit the country’s struggling travel and tourism industry in the wake of a global economic slowdown.
Telephone hotlines at travel agencies and consumer groups have been besieged by angry would-be travelers demanding a full refund.
The move is a double whammy for Hong Kong’s travel industry, which has been reeling from months of anti-government protests.
The Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong estimated the cancellation of 2,600 tour groups from the Chinese mainland, affecting some 90,000 tourists.
Thailand, Japan and Taiwan which have also been relying on organized tour groups from China to hit inbound tourism targets will also be adversely affected.
In an effort to contain the spread of the virus, Lunar New Year festivities have been cancelled in many cities across China.
Beijing announced the closure of the Badaling section of the Great Wall and shuttered down other major attractions such as the Forbidden City and the Bird’s Nest stadium, the site of the 2008 Olympic Games.
Shanghai announced the closure of the Disney Resort, the Shanghai Zoo, Wildlife Animal Park as well as the suspension of the Lunar New Year light display at Yuyuan Gardens.
104 public performances scheduled to take place at 26 major venues during the Spring Festival holidays have been cancelled and religious services halted at places of worship.
As of Jan 26, 9.30pm, the Wuhan coronavirus epidemic has claimed 56 lives and infected 2,074.