Sales of tours to China have dropped by more than half since the end of last month, amid fears over the spread of the H7N9 avian influenza virus there, tour operators said yesterday at a travel fair in Taipei.
“The situation is terrible,” said Larry Lai, a manager at Gloria General Travel Service Co, which relies on China-bound travel for 40 percent of its sales.
Lai said the firm has suspended all tours to coastal Chinese cities amid rising concern over the H7N9 outbreak in those areas.
The best that operators can do is offer tours to inland destinations such as Xinjiang Province, he said.
As of yesterday morning, China had reported 112 confirmed H7N9 cases, with 23 deaths, according to data on the Web site of Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control.
At least 50 percent of travelers who had planned to visit China have canceled their bookings, and the percentage could rise in light of the Central Epidemic Command Center on Thursday issuing a Level-2 travel advisory for five Chinese provinces and two metropolitan areas, Lai said.
The alert advises travelers to exercise extreme caution and take protective measures if they visit the provinces of Jiangsu, Henan, Zhejiang, Anhui and Shandong, or the cities of Shanghai and Beijing.
The center yesterday also added Jiangxi and Fujian provinces to the travel alert.
Under the three-level travel advisory system, a Level-2 alert calls for would-be travelers to be highly cautious and take extra hygienic precautions, especially when visiting certain high-risk places.
Ezfly Travel Agent Co said it has decided not to set up any promotional booths for travel to China at the International Spring Travel Fair in Taipei, which opened yesterday and runs through Monday.
Taiwan’s outbound travel market has been increasingly dominated by trips to China, which accounted for about 30 percent of the 10 million Taiwanese trips abroad last year.
However, the organizers of the Taipei fair said the loss of interest in the Chinese market is not likely to dampen sales in general, since there are other locations available.
On the first day of the annual travel fair, the number of attendees was higher than last year’s opening day, event organizers said.
Over the four-day period, about 200,000 people are expected to visit the fair, which features promotions by more than 250 travel agencies.