The leader of the worlds top travel and tourism industry association has hailed Chinas performance in its uphill battle against the novel coronavirus but warned of overreaction and panic as the world is busy containing the outbreak.
In her recent exclusive interview with Xinhua, Gloria Guevara, president and CEO of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), said that she was very impressed with some measures taken by the Chinese government, especially the amount of hospitals built in a very short time frame, in the ongoing virus fight.
I think they reacted the way that it should have reacted, she said. They have managed the crisis well in our opinion.
She believed that now is the time to help restore the economic activity of the worlds second largest economy and work out a plan for speedy recovery of the hard-hit tourism sector.
According to a preliminary WTTC calculation, the outbreak of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, is expected to cost world tourism at least 22 billion U.S. dollars because of a drop in spending by Chinese tourists.
The remarks of the head of WTTC, which represents the global travel and tourism private sector, came at a time when fears of the COVID-19 illness outbreak grip the world.
The number of the confirmed cases has been rising, with the figure outside China now growing faster than that inside China. A lot of countries are stepping up their measures against the virus.
But Guevara stressed that choking travel will not stop the virus from spreading but on the contrary inflict damages, warning against closing borders, blanket travel bans and more extreme government policies.
When you talk to World Health Organization (WHO) officials, theyll tell you that 90 percent of the economic and financial impact of outbreaks is driven for panic or overreactions, said Guevara.
They will also share with you that in many cases you will see that closing borders or just canceling flights has a very significant impact.
She quoted WHO statistics as saying that more people died because of the impact of the crisis than from Ebola the virus itself, which is a lesson that must be learned.
If you just cancel flights and activities, the consequences are significant, she said. Were against travel bans and travel cancellations to entire countries.
Guevara suggested that more media exposure should be given to the fact that a large number of people had recovered from the disease so that the panic could be effectively reduced.
Though describing travel and tourism as the most resilience sector that has proven always recover, she said it is still too early to tell how long the post-crisis recovery would take.
Guevara, also the former tourism minister of Mexico where she gained first-hand experience in handling H1N1 pandemic years ago, said that it is critical to keep the population very well informed with the most recent developments in the coronavirus outbreak.
It was under her leadership that Mexico was able to turn around the situation from a loss of millions of international and domestic tourists to a growth path that broke new records with the highest numbers in 2011 and 2012 with more than 200 million travelers domestic and international.
Guevara confirmed that the WTTCs global summit, scheduled to take place in Cancun, Mexico in April, will not be postponed despite the virus threat.
We hope that by then the panic has been reduced, she said.
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