UK tourist hotspots are facing a drop in footfall and profits as the spread of the coronavirus hits visitor numbers from the highly lucrative Chinese market.
The Chinese government has restricted travel for its citizens and airlines British Airways and Etihad are amongst those who have suspended flights to and from the country leading to concerns about the impact to tourism in the UK.
Shakespeare's birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon, a favourite with international tourists, has seen a 15% drop in visitors to five key attractions associated with the bard.
Acting director of operations at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Debbie Beardall, said: "In the last two weeks visitor numbers have dropped 15% in comparison to a similar period last year. It's not just the coronavirus that may have had an impact there have been two storms."
Cumbria Tourism has also expressed concerns reporting that as much as 8% of the region's annual £3b tourist spending is from Chinese visitors. Cumbria Tourism managing director Gill Haigh said: "The industry has established long term relationships with international markets and whilst this situation presents a short-term challenge it is important that we maintain momentum in overseas markets which are so important to the UK and Cumbrian visitor economy."
Other attractions including Blenheim Palace and Bicester Village have also reported a drop-off in visitor numbers since the outbreak while Heathrow hotels saw occupancy fall by more than 50% in January.
Joss Croft, CEO of trade association UKInbound, added: "Even though it is currently low season for Chinese visitors to the UK with only 17% of total visits in Q1, some of our tour operator members that depend wholly on the market, and some of our accommodation members, are experiencing substantive cancellation levels.
"We are urging our members to be as lenient as possible with their cancellation policies – we know that when the situation is resolved, there will be a huge pent up demand for travel to the UK."
Kate Nicholls, CEO of UKHospitality, earlier this month said: "We're fortunate that this has hit at a time when the Chinese market is at its slowest, you don't have a great deal of in-bound Chinese tourism in January and February. I think that the impact on the overall travel market and tourism market will be severe but temporary."
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