China Travel International Invest-ment Hong Kong Ltd (香港中旅), Hong Kong's biggest publicly traded travel agent, said it may report its first loss in five years because SARS has slashed tour bookings.
Hong Kong-based China Travel, which made more than four-fifths of its revenue from Hong Kong and mainland China last year, said sales plunged as much as 85 percent last month from a year ago, because fewer people booked hotels, plane tickets and travel packages through the operator.
The spread of SARS, which has killed at least 611 people and infected 7739 people worldwide, prompted people to cancel travel plans. Hong Kong and China account for 90 percent of the global SARS cases.
"If this epidemic is not contained within a short period of time, it will most probably have an overall significant negative impact on the group's performance," company managing director Shen Zhuying said in a statement. "There is a possibility of recording a net loss ."
China Travel, the first overseas travel agent allowed to serve Chinese citizens, last posted a loss in 1998. Net income dropped 16 percent last year to HK$540.3 million (US$69 million).
The company has been seeking to expand in China after the Chinese government last year increased the number of agencies allowed to operate overseas tours for Chinese to 67 from four.
China Travel has "carried out a series of cost cutting measures," Shen said in the statement.