Asia’s Tourist Attractions Are Now Ghost Towns Over Coronavirus Fear, Travel Restrictions

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Tourist destinations in Asia are seeing a dramatic drop in visitor numbers as travel restrictions related to the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak remain in effect.

The disease, which has so far affected more than 77,000 worldwide, forced popular attractions in China to limit operations or close altogether, while Chinese tourists hoping to visit neighboring countries find themselves on lockdown.

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A man walks alone along a large, empty shopping area in Beijing that would usually be busy during the Chinese New Year and Spring Festival holiday on Jan. 28, 2020. Image via Getty

In China, tourist spots like the Great Wall, the Forbidden City and Shanghai Disneyland have all been entirely or partially closed, according to Business Insider.

The Forbidden City on Oct. 4, 2015. Image via Getty
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The gated entrance to the Forbidden City on Jan. 26, 2020, a few days after it announced temporary closure. Image via Getty

Meanwhile, in Japan, Sanrio parks Puroland and Harmonyland, located in Tokyo and Kyushu, respectively, will be closed from Feb. 22 to March 12 to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

While both establishments are scheduled to reopen on March 13, Sanrio will still assess the situation and information from the government before making a decision, according to NHK.

This week, streets of South Korea’s fourth-largest city, Daegu, were abandoned after reports of a COVID-19 “super-spreader” from a local church circulated.

The city, which houses 2.5 million people, is now left with deserted cinemas and shopping malls, according to Reuters.

 

Singapore, another popular Asian destination, is expected to take a “significant hit” amid the outbreak, with visitor arrivals projected to fall by 25% to 30% this year.

Chinese tourists account for about 20% of all international visitor arrivals in Singapore, according to the country’s tourism board.

 

Singapore is currently losing an average of 18,000 to 20,000 international visitors per day — with most lost due to travel restrictions on Chinese and Singaporean sides, Channel News Asia reported.

“We believe that the situation this year will be at least as severe as the situation we faced in 2003 during the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), probably worse,” said Keith Tan, chief executive of the Singapore Tourism Board.

The aftermath of a shopping panic at a supermarket in Singapore on Feb. 9 after news of an increase in coronavirus infections. Image via Getty

Meanwhile, Thailand’s beaches and major attractions have also seen a precipitous drop in visitors — and right in their supposed top tourist season, according to the Straits Times.

“I’m about to lose my job,” said Haranyawat Saengprasit, a manager at a local speedboat tour company. “We have to wrap up this season now. The Chinese tours are done.”

A crowded street in Pattaya, Thailand on New Year’s Day 2018. Image Screenshot via Thailand Noobie

All Star Cruise, a cruise company in Pattaya, has indefinitely closed since Feb. 1.

“If we set sail at this rate, we will be running at a loss. It’s just not worth it,” said Suthasinee Srimala, an executive in charge of selling tickets. “More importantly, we’re concerned about our staff’s exposure to the virus. Better be safe than sorry.”

A street in Pattaya was practically empty in late January. Image via Hello Pattaya

With the outbreak still present, how these tourist attractions plan to recover their financial losses is unclear. 

For its part, the government of Kyoto, Japan has launched an “empty tourism” campaign to lure visitors back to its historic sites, according to CNN.

In essence, the campaign promises fewer tourists, allowing potential visitors to have typically popular spots all to themselves.

“It’s been a while since there were more monkeys than humans,” said a poster in the city’s Arashiyama neighborhood, which houses shrines and temples.

Feature Image via Getty

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