26/09/2020

In some places, health concerns have turned into outright hostility toward the Chinese that have come.

We had hand sanitizer from China and our hotel gave us masks, said Roberto Rubio, an American living in the Chinese coastal city of Qingdao. He and his wife, Jenessa, left China on Jan. 19, before the severity of the outbreak was clear.
They were wearing light blue surgical masks as they toured the ruins at Angkor Wat, which is usually packed with Chinese tourists during the Lunar New Year holiday but was notably quiet this past week.
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Now, their return flight has been canceled and their workplaces are offering to extend their breaks. We havent decided what to do, Jenessa Rubio said, with a shrug.
The outbreak of the coronavirus which has been detected in all of Chinas neighbors, including Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia has cast a pall over a regional tourism industry that has become increasingly reliant on Chinas burgeoning middle class.
The Chinese government has canceled all outbound group tours, while a sizable number of those traveling independently have canceled their plans.
Its an outcome that is complicated for Chinas neighbors, and its impact is only just beginning to be felt.
Its not unusual to see Asian tourists wearing the kinds of masks more frequently associated with dental hygienists. But this week, everyone from New Zealanders to Russians, Chileans to Sri Lankans has been donning masks as they travel around places that are popular with Chinese tourists.
This concern about health is looking a lot like profiling.
Some even say they are going out of their way to avoid Chinese tourists, and Mandarin-speaking travelers like Taiwanese and Singaporeans have noticed people putting on masks when they approach.
Many tour guides at Angkor Wat are wearing masks given out by their agencies.
The government has told us to wear masks, but I dont think they can really protect us, and I cant wear a mask up here every day, said Bing, a security guard who gave only his first name as he was sitting at the top of three very steep flights of stone steps at the Ta Keo temple, which has been renovated with Chinese aid money.
The Chinese tourists still come. We just hope it gets better soon, he said.
One traveler from Shanghai who had scaled Ta Keo said all Chinese tourists at his hotel were having their temperatures checked every day and had been asked where they were from.
Youd better not say youre from Wuhan, said the man, declining to give his name.
Traditional Chinese spots in Siem Reap, like the hot pot restaurants and the huge duty-free store with its happy year of the rat signs, are almost empty.
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For many, Chinese comprise the largest portion of their foreign tourists, and they arrive with more money to burn. From the hotels of Siem Reap to the cosmetic stores of Seoul, Chinese-speaking staff are in hot demand, and Chinese payment apps are welcome.
But theres now a flip side.
In South Korea, the detection of six cases of coronavirus brought some calls for an entry ban on Chinese visitors.
Shim Jae-chul, the floor leader of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, called for a fundamental blockade by such means as an entry ban on Chinese tourists, while an online petition asking President Moon Jae-in to ban Chinese nationals from entering South Korea drew more than 590,000 signatures in a week.
Some 130,000 Chinese tourists were expected in South Korea during the week-long Lunar New Year holiday, part of a rebound since a politically motivated nadir in 2017. Chinese tourist numbers had grown by 44 percent since then.
In Japan, businesses around the country are reporting a slump from last year, when more than 720,000 Chinese tourists visited during the month around Lunar New Year. One travel agency that prepares group tours for Chinese tourists told the Yomiuri newspaper that bookings for some 20,000 visitors had been canceled this week.
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The biggest foreseeable risk is that demand from inbound tourists will fall excessively, said Hideo Kumano, executive chief economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute in Tokyo. Chinese tourists have been a lifeline after a sharp fall in the number of South Korean visitors, he said.
Kimono rental shops, where Chinese women go to get done up in traditional Japanese dress and hairstyles before they wander the streets, have seen a spate of cancellations.
Weve seen the number of reservations by Chinese customers fall to just one-tenth in recent days, said Takayuki Watanabe, the president of a kimono rental shop in the Tokyo tourist spot of Asakusa. Worse still, Japanese customers, aware that many Chinese go to the kimono stores, have started canceling too, afraid of coming into contact with Chinese travelers.
Business owners in the southwestern hot spring city of Beppu, meanwhile, are disappointed that a cruise ship, scheduled to bring nearly 2,000 Chinese tourists next week on its maiden trip there, had been canceled.
Because Chinese tourists are known as big shoppers, I think [business owners] are disappointed at the news, said Shota Kato, a Beppu tourism official. The city had even been preparing for the welcoming ceremony for the ship.
Malaysia has tightened visa requirements for Chinese, while the Chinese territory of Hong Kong has drastically curtailed transport links with the mainland. Countries including Vietnam and Thailand have increased screening measures for arrivals into the country.
Thailands Tourism Authority says it expects the number of Chinese tourists to fall from 9 million to 7 million this year because of the virus.
The spread of the coronavirus has caused even countries that are politically amenable to China to impose restrictions.
The Philippines, which welcomed almost 1.4 million Chinese tourists in the first nine months of last year alone and has set itself a target of 4 million Chinese tourists by 2022, has stopped granting visas upon arrival for Chinese nationals and refused entry to visitors from the city of Wuhan, where the virus began.
But the Philippines president, Rodrigo Duterte, said there was no need to ban travelers from mainland China or to completely suspend flights between the two countries.
Some hotel operators have, however, started taking matters into their own hands by turning away Chinese nationals.
Lisa Almerida, a tour operator on the Philippines island of Coron, known for its beaches and diving, said she encountered a Chinese family with three children who were searching desperately for somewhere to stay after being turned away at several hotels.
Were safe, but you cant take away the fear, Almerida said. I had four Chinese tourists. I felt an impulse to wear a mask, but I was too embarrassed.
Its a similar situation in Vietnam, where authorities have blocked travelers from the part of China where the virus began, while the government has said workers returning from China after the new year holiday must be quarantined for 14 days under the supervision of local health officials.
A hotel on the island of Phu Quoc and a restaurant in the beach resort of Danang have put up signs saying: At this time we are not receiving guests from China.
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In Cambodia, an impoverished country that has benefited enormously from both Chinese tourism and investment in recent years, Prime Minister Hun Sen has said there was no need to take drastic action like blocking all air traffic from China. The six weekly flights from Wuhan have been suspended, but others continue.
Stopping flights from China would mean killing Cambodias economy, he told reporters at a news conference called to address the concerns over the virus. In good times, we stay together. But in difficult times, we run away [from China]?
An exodus in Chinese tourists would inflict new pain on Cambodias economy at a time when it is already reeling from the departure of almost half a million Chinese who left when Hun Sen banned online gambling.
Chinese tourists accounted for more than one-third of travelers to Cambodia last year, with 2.18 million arriving in the first 11 months of 2019, according to Cambodias Ministry of Tourism.
Please dont frighten Chinese people, Hun Sen continued, according to local reports. We are working to help them. We help treat Chinese citizens who are staying in Cambodia.
For citizens of other countries traveling in Cambodia, however, the virus has caused some unanticipated shopping trips.
Holly Quinonez of Operation Pop Smoke, which takes veterans on trips designed to alleviate post-traumatic stress disorder, also left Washington state before the severity of the outbreak was known.
Wecased Phnom Penh but we couldnt find any masks, she said at the entrance to Ta Keo. In the end, we had to buy some from a person on the street.
Min Joo Kim in Seoul, Akiko Kashiwagi in Tokyo, Regine Cabato in Manila and Shibani Mahtani in Hong Kong contributed to this report.
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