Trade exhibitions shuttered by outbreak
Trade exhibitions, once a growth driver for tourism, are in retreat as events are cancelled or postponed in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is keeping a close eye on the most prominent marketplace, ITB Berlin 2020, as the health and interior ministries of Germany discuss whether they will hold the event, scheduled for March 4-8, said TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn.
There are 82 companies from Thailand registered for the show under the Thailand pavilion.
If ITB Berlin is cancelled, the TAT will also cancel the post-ITB roadshow in Britain, for which 30 companies are registered.
To deal with the impact of the disease on tourism trade shows, the agency will intensify online marketing support for operators, which is considered a safer and more efficient method for the industry.
ITB Berlin 2020 anticipated about 10,000 organisations and companies from over 180 countries exhibiting their products and services this year to 160,000 visitors from around the world, according to the organiser.
Mr Yuthasak said many trade shows from February to May were postponed or cancelled, led by a number of events in China.
The organisers of ITB China in Shanghai have indefinitely put off the show this year, originally scheduled for May 13-15 at the Shanghai World Expo Exhibition and Convention Center, to ensure the safety of exhibitors and visitors.
The China Outbound Travel & Tourism Market 2020 in Beijing, which originally was to take place April 1-3, was postponed to Sept 9-11.
Other leading travel trade shows cancelled this year include the Japan Golf Fair 2020 in Yokohama, scheduled for March 19-21, and the luxury travel trade show ILTM Asia Pacific 2020 in Singapore, scheduled for May 18-21.
According to statistics from the TAT, the number of international tourists during Jan 1-23, before Wuhan in China was shut down, increased by about 2%.
After the city was sealed, the number dropped by 37% between Jan 24 and Feb 23. In the same period, Chinese tourist numbers fell by 79% after enjoying a growth spurt of 14% before the city closed down.
India, which the TAT hopes will be a replacement market, also saw a dip of 27% in tourist numbers after the shutdown.
Mr Yuthasak said the lowest point has yet to come, as the TAT expects the worst losses in April.
The authority hopes signs of recovery will manifest from July.
Suksit Suvunditkul, chief executive of Deevana Hotels and Resorts, said his hotel group has booked a spot in the Thai pavilion at ITB Berlin this year, but he will not object if the organiser wants to cancel the show, since more infections would create greater difficulties for operators.
As of Saturday, Messe Berlin informed that ITB Berlin 2020 will not take place. Due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus, the Federal Ministry of Health and the Federal Ministry of Economics have stated their opinion that ITB Berlin be cancelled.
In the cancellation statement, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Messe Berlin Wolf-Dieter Wolf said not once in the 54-year history of the event have ITB Berlin and Messe Berlin experienced a similar situation.