MERS will have minimal impact on business travel

Published on : Monday, June 22, 2015

Tourists wearing masks to prevent themselves from contracting Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) arrive at the Incheon International Airport in IncheonThere have been more cancellations than bookings for flights to South Korea across Asia, according to ForwardKeys’ latest figures for the week of June 6-12, as the country continues to battle its outbreak of MERS.


Net bookings – derived from the total number of bookings for the week after taking away cancellations – plunged by 188 per cent from North-east Asia and by 131 per cent from the rest of Asia, while net bookings for all other continents fell by over 60 per cent.


During the same period, Taiwan, Hong Kong and China continued to lead the cancellation trend, with declines in net bookings at 329 per cent, 298 per cent and 182 per cent respectively. Japan is the only country in Asia that has seen a rise in net bookings.


Travel in July is also seeing some impact with 3% fewer net bookings year-on-year. However, for corporate and business trips, Todd Arthur, managing director Asia-Pacific at HRS Corporate, believes that MERS will have minimal impact. “While the ongoing MERS health scare is having some impact on the level of leisure travel to South Korea, we’ve yet to see a significant negative impact on corporate travel to the country. In terms of hotel bookings, there haven’t been a large number of cancellations.”“Government agencies in Korea have been handling the crisis reasonably well, working quickly and in an open and transparent manner to bring the situation under control,” Arthur continued.


In a bid to reassure travellers, South Korea’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism has announced that foreign visitors will be automatically insured against the risk of contracting MERS in the country, though the extent of coverage or when the plan will go into effect has not been revealed.



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