“If it’s not contained, the entire world is going to shut down,” one executive who has seen his business suffer said.
In Rome, sidewalk cafes sit empty and the usual lines of tourists visiting the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel have disappeared. The Italian tourism industry is in rapid retreat, the result of government lockdowns and a slew of travel warnings against visiting that nation, which has struggled to contain the coronavirus.
The fallout has left peak tourism season in tatters, with airlines, hotels, casinos, tourism offices and booking agencies scrambling. In the United Kingdom, low-cost airline Flybe said it was ceasing operations, citing the large number of coronavirus cancellations. While the company had been struggling financially for a while, the impact of the virus proved the final blow.
“This is perhaps the most extensive hit we have seen in the worldwide travel industry since 9/11,” said Henry Harteveldt, president of the global travel industry advisory company Atmosphere Research Group.
A growing list of multinational companies from Google to Walmart have announced plans to restrict “nonessential” travel for employees, and one trade conference after another has had to cancel either because of local government efforts to contain the virus or for lack of clients who are able to travel.
Global air travel is expected to lose anywhere between $63 billion and $113 billion as a result of reduced demand for flights, according to a new estimate from the International Air Transport Association. The broad range depends on how extensive global reaction is to the disease.