Travel sector hit hard by Chinese coronavirus scare

SEOUL-- South Korea's travel industry is bracing for fallout from the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus, with China-bound trip cancellations reaching up to 20 percent, industry sources said Wednesday.

Leading e-commerce firm Interpark Corp. said reservations for overseas trips in the January-March period were down sharply, with a double-digit drop for destinations in China.

"Numbers shot up after media reports on the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus raised fears that were fueled further when people started dying from the illness," a local travel agent said.

Beijing reported earlier in the day that nine people have so far died from the illness that was first reported in late 2019. It said over 400 people have been confirmed to have contracted the virus, with many more being carefully monitored for symptoms that range from fever and a sore throat to breathing problems.

South Korea reported its first case on Monday, and others have been reported in Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and the United States.

In addition, travel agents here remain alert over the potential spread of the disease as many Chinese travelers are set to land here for the Lunar New Year holiday, which begins on Friday and runs through Jan. 30.

The virus is thought to be contagious between humans.

Travel agencies estimate that 130,000 Chinese tourists will visit the country during the holiday.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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