China’s tourism sector is facing a serious crisis as Beijing’s zero-tolerance approach to new Covid-19 outbreaks hampers their efforts to stage a post-pandemic recovery.
The country’s leisure businesses are feeling the bite with even small numbers of infections seeing entertainment venues closed, tourist restrictions imposed and cultural events delayed.
Shanghai Disneyland stopped admitting visitors on Monday and Tuesday last week, and demanded patrons and staff in the theme park undergo Covid tests immediately, according to state media.
The measures were part of a Covid probe requested by authorities from outside Shanghai, state television reported.
A total of 484 domestically transmitted cases with confirmed symptoms were reported between October 17 and 31, mostly in the north of China, calculations based on official data showed on Monday.
Many of the infections have been tourists who travelled across multiple regions, complicating and prolonging contact-tracing efforts.
While the caseload remains miniscule compared with clusters outside China, and the rise in local infections in some regions have started to slow or even stop in recent days, China is sparing no effort in minimising transmission risks, even at the cost of disrupting businesses and local economies.
As China steps up vaccinations for children and rolls out booster shots, the impact from the current outbreak on economic growth in the fourth quarter will be smaller than in the third, Nie Wen, a Shanghai-based economist at Hwabao Trust said.
Gross domestic product in July-September grew at the slowest in a year, partly due to an outbreak over summer that affected over 40 cities including Nanjing and Yangzhou in Jiangsu province, which bore the brunt of the infections.
China’s three biggest airlines posted deeper losses on Friday for July-September due to a domestic travel slump.
Indoor Venues Closed
Last month, the national tourism authority announced the suspension of travel agencies organising inter-provincial trips that involve provincial regions with areas deemed to be at higher risk of the virus, and halted dedicated train services linking tourist attractions.
Many cities with local infections, including the capital Beijing, have halted some indoor leisure venues such as internet cafes, chess and card parlours, as well as cinemas, while a number of marathon races, concerts and theatrical performances have been delayed or cancelled.
Cultural and leisure businesses in some cities that have not detected local cases for a few months are also affected.
In northern Heilongjiang province, where the daily tally of new local infections topped Chinese regions since October 29, Jiamusi city and Mudanjiang city on October 30 announced temporary closure of various indoor entertainment venues.
Yichun, also in Heilongjiang, said tourists arriving from outside for leisure would be barred from entering tourist sites until November 6. The three cities have reported no infections so far from the current outbreak.
In southern Dongguan city, also infection-free for now, an international exhibition centre suspended the hosting of various events.
Shares of China’s consumption and tourism-related companies were down in early trade on Monday. The consumer staples sub-index slipped 1.5%, while the tourism sub-index retreated by more than 4%.
- Reuters with additional editing by Sean O’Meara