The coronavirus could cost the global business travel industry $47b (£37b) a month, according to the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA).
A poll of more than 400 GBTA member companies last week found two-thirds (65%) of respondents reported cancelling meetings and almost one in five (18%) had cancelled “many”.
Scott Solombrino, GBTA’s chief operating officer, said: “The coronavirus is having a significant – and potentially very costly – effect on our members, their companies and on the overall business travel industry. It is fundamentally affecting the way many companies are now doing business.”
On a conference call discussing Hilton’s 2019 financial results last month, president and chief executive Chris Nasetta said that, assuming the outbreak lasts around three to six months with an additional three- to six-month recovery period, for the full year, the group is anticipating coronavirus to have a $25-$50m (£20-39m) impact on its global full year adjusted earnings.
He said: “If you look at prior history in the industry and impact, those seem to be sort of reasonable guardrails for how we see it today.”
Nassetta added that it was the company’s belief that “it will be managed”.
When it comes to UK businesses, Joss Croft, chief executive of UKinbound, said: “Clearly this is a very worrying time for the UK tourism industry and travel and tourism worldwide. This week we will be gathering specific information and intelligence on the impact of the virus on our members’ businesses to date and what help and support they need now and going forward.
“We have been relaying advice and guidance from VisitBritain to our members on a daily basis and also liaising with colleagues in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) about the impact on the industry. We have urged our members to be as lenient as possible with each other with regards to their cancellation policies, as we know that when the impact of the virus improves, there will be a huge pent up demand for travel to the UK.”
Meanwhile, Hospitality Ulster chief executive Colin Neill told the BBC the decision to call off Ireland’s Six Nations match against Italy is estimated to cost Northern Ireland’s pubs “hundreds of thousands”. Shaun Whitehouse, owner of the Lanes hotel near Yeovil, told Somerset Live business guest bookings had been “decimated”.
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