Expert says coronavirus concerns could have major impact on travel and tourism, global economy

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — As spring break approaches, many are starting to dream about warmer destinations, but the coronavirus outbreak has people changing or postponing their vacation plans. However, an even greater impact on travel and tourism could be on the horizon. 

Xiang Robert Li, director of the US Asia Center for Tourism and Hospitality research at Temple, raised the notion that a bigger tourism impact could come a few months from now. "This is usually about the time that American travelers are starting to think about their summer vacations," he said. "In the U.S. with more cases being confirmed, I think people are being more cautious."

Li said people outright canceling their travel plans could affect the global economy. "Economist inteligence units forecasting say that the global and tourism industry will suffer a loss of around $60 billion in 2020," he explained. "That's based on one scenario, but if it lasts longer, the economic loss could be much worse."

For those who plan to stay the course, he said it's important to be a responsible traveler. "We need to, you know, wash our hands to make sure that we protect our own and others' health," Li advised, adding that it's also important not to panic or stigmatize others.

He countined, "It would be wise for us to follow closely with the state department's travel advisory. We need to be observing closely what is happening in the destination countries."

Those who travel this year may research aspects of a country that they never considered before. "For example," he said, "whether a destination has a very good medical infrastructure, medical facility."

With the travel and tourism industry preparing for major losses, Li said there is one silver lining for prospective travelers. "Most likely, we will see some very nice, very good deals pretty soon," he suggested. "There are lots of destinations and areas not being affected yet and so maybe there will be a very nice summer vacation waiting for you."