Guangzhou’s trade braces for more impact(2)

31 March 2003Concerns spill over from HK, leaders call for “perspective”

GUANGZHOU - Guangzhou’s inbound tourism industry is bracing for the worst, but hoping for the best.

The industry to date has survived relatively unscathed, but serious concerns are just starting to set in, two weeks ahead of the Canton Trade Fair.

Hoteliers say they are growing more and more concerned about likely cancellations in mid- to late-April, during trade fair periods. The government will not consider postponing the events.

Chairman of the Guangzhou Hotels Association and director general manager of the White Swan Hotel in Guangzhou, Yang Xiao Peng told TravelWeekly the Guangzhou and Hong Kong Hotels Association met last week in Guangzhou to discuss the impacts of the virus and war on the industry.

“Overall, Guangzhou hotels have reported about a 15 percent loss in business due to the virus.

People overseas don’t understand the virus is no longer here, so they aren’t coming. We will just have to wait and see about cancellations.

Here at White Swan, people can cancel up to 72 hours before their stay here.

“I really believe this will be a short-term virus, but because of the concern in Hong Kong, that concern has become contagious here,” Yang said.

“People are now starting to get worried. Occupancies across the five-star hotels have been higher than last year, hitting 73 percent versus last year at 71 percent. We do anticipate this will now drop, as we have been receiving postponements and cancellations since March 22.”

Hotels started to receive postponements and cancellations last week, primarily from leisure groups as news of the virus spread and overseas governments started putting out travel advisories discouraging travel to Asia.

Yang said it was important for Hong Kong people to keep the severity of the virus in perspective as only 400 people had been infected, out of a city of more than six million people, and the fatality rate was just three percent. He decided he would visit Hong Kong over the weekend to see for himself, how the city was dealing with SARS.

One hotelier, who asked to remain anonymous, said he was enforcing vigilant cleaning measures, ensuring proper ventilation throughout the hotel and looking into using an anti-virus spray. The objective, the hotelier said, was to give guests a sense of security that the hotel is doing as much as it can to keep the virus at bay.

China Southern Airlines’ vice president, Li Kun told TravelWeekly the virus has had a big impact on the carrier, but is hoping this is short-term. China Southern Airlines stocks fell 7.14 percent last week.

“The virus has had a big impact on Guangzhou, but the city is in better shape now. Tourists should feel safe to come here again, as the virus is under control here. It is up to you to help spread that news and let people know they can feel comfortable coming here again,” Li said.

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