H1N1, Ebola, Zika, Avian Flu, Mad Cow Disease. Do any of these ring a bell with you? They should, they have all impacted our businesses to some degree. And the latest is the Coronavirus. And no, it has nothing to do with the beer at poolside bar on your favorite cruise ship. But do we need to worry?
In a word, yes.. We most certainly need to be aware and to follow the news. Currently, the virus is responsible for more than 300 deaths and there have been more than 14,000 cases confirmed worldwide (at the time of this writing). Only one death from the virus has occurred outside of China—it was in the Philippines and reported on Saturday evening. There have been seven conformed cases in the United States, but zero deaths. Health organizations worldwide are trying to get a grasp on the virus and its spread.
So, as a travel professional, where do you fit in? Just as I mentioned, be aware and informed for your clients. If you have corporate clients with interests in China, this will be imperative—you need to know where they are traveling and the potential restrictions they may face upon return (14-day quarantine if they traveled to Hubei Province), and travel from within China. Getting them there may prove problematic as well.
For your leisure clients that were planning a trip to China, for now it is likely impacted. American, Delta, and United have halted direct service to China as have many other carriers. This suspension is expected to last months, not weeks. Cruise lines are suspending port calls in China; and ships that have recently been to China are facing quarantine in a growing list of port cities. For the leisure client, there is no need to assume the risk at this point. The best advice is to postpone or re-accommodate to a different destination.
Where this will go is anyone’s guess. It has already had a drastic impact on the stock markets and trade from China. But it is also important to keep some perspective as well. Take a look at past outbreaks with some statistics from the World Health Organization.
|Virus Name||Confirmed Cases||Confirmed Deaths|
|H5N1 Bird Flu (1997)||861||455|
|H7N9 Bird Flu (2013)||1,568||616|
|Wuhan Coronavirus (2020)**||14,380||304|
** At time of this writing
So, it is significant. It bears watching. It has the potential to get worse. But the good news is that the best health professionals around the world are working on it non-stop.
As with many things in our industry, this one is out of our hands and there is nothing we, as an industry, can do to mitigate it. The key for travel agencies right now is to keep abreast of the virus and monitor its spread via the CDC Page. Or, as the current slang goes.. Stay Woke!