BEIJING – The latest coronavirus outbreak in Beijing, coming at a time when many destinations in Asia-Pacific are reopening their economies, is deepening worries for the travel industry which has suffered widespread impacts by the coronavirus pandemic.
Largely viewed as successful in defeating the coronavirus, China had not registered any locally transmitted cases for 56 days until a spike of cases was reported in Beijing last week.
A partial lockdown has now been imposed on the Chinese capital, with schools shut, hundred of flights cancelled and social distancing measures stepped up to prevent broader contagion.
Elsewhere in the region, Hong Kong has since Wednesday extended mandatory testing to all Beijing air arrivals exempted from 14-day quarantine requirements, according to the South China Morning Post.
Calling the Beijing outbreak "deeply concerning", Kuala Lumpur-based tourism analyst Gary Bowerman said Southeast Asia's travel industry is likely to face "tougher" reopening decisions in the third quarter.
With the uptick in new cases in Beijing and a lower Chinese purchasing power for outbound trips, Bangkok Post earlier this week reported that the Tourism Authority of Thailand's China office is tempering enthusiasm that many Chinese tourists will visit in the second half this year as travel restrictions ease.
However, Beijing's lightning speed to test, trace and isolate cases and Chinese media's candid assessment of the current outbreak is a sign of "lessons learnt" from stifling its first wave of infections, Bowerman added.
The Beijing outbreak is a sobering reminder of the "new norm" in the post-pandemic world, but with the earlier experience of coping with the fallouts of the coronavirus crisis the travel industry is more likely in a better position to deal with any bumps – and possibly reverses – along the path to recovery.