Beijing tourism hit by sudden COVID-19 spike

By GT staff reporters Published: 2020/6/16 1:39:07

A tourist poses for a selfie in front of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests at the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, April 29, 2020. (Xinhua/Peng Ziyang)

Tourism industry insiders in Beijing including staffers at hotels and travel service platforms told the Global Times on Monday that they have been affected by the sudden surge in COVID-19 cases in the city over the weekend. 

A receptionist at a hotel in Beijing's Dongcheng district told the Global Times on Monday that some customers who booked online and have not yet come to the capital city canceled their bookings even though the street where the hotel is located does not belong to the middle-risk or high-risk level.

Beijing on Monday marked 12 new subdistricts as COVID-19 middle-risk areas, bringing the total number to 22. Huaxiang in Fengtai district, where the Xinfadi wholesale market is located, is the only area of high-risk in China.

The hotel occupancy rate in Fengtai district dropped over the weekend.

A branch of Lavande Hotels near the Beijing South Railway Station, which is about 10 kilometers away from the Xinfadi wholesale market, has seen its orders decline in the past few days. "Accordingly, we have reduced our prices," said the receptionist.

A Thailand-style homestay hotel in Beijing's Huairou district has seen the cancelation of 40-50 bookings over the past two days, and the cancellations are still on the increase, a receptionist told the Global Times.

Industry insiders said orders generated from high risk zones have basically been canceled and the inconveniences such as tests and quarantine dictated by epidemic prevention measures have further cut demand for travel and tourism.

Multiple five-star hotels have seen a rise in booking cancelations and the city's tour package bookings also saw a marked decline, the Beijing News reported on Monday.

"After the sudden outbreak over the weekend, the work and production resumption in Beijing's tourism industry will probably be put on a hold for a while," said Zhang Lingyun, director of the Tourism Development Academy at Beijing Union University.

Zhang noted the huge uncertainty about travel industry resumption before the pandemic is declared over and the rebooting of the tourism industry will take a very long time with its exposure to risks posed by the epidemic.

Tip of the iceberg

Experts said the woes of the city's tourism industry may be only just a part of the situation facing the city's consumption industry as it takes the unavoidable epidemic prevention and control measures.

Beijing, China's capital with a population of over 20 million and a key consumption stronghold in the country, has declared a new special period for combating COVID-19, vowing to decisively curb the spread of the deadly disease with several of its districts entering a "wartime" state. 

As part of the epidemic prevention and control measures, Beijing called off or postponed all the offline activities originally planned for a big consumption boost program called Beijing Consumption Season that started on June 6. 

According to the Beijing commerce authority, sundry offline events, trade exhibitions and sales events have been canceled or postponed until further notice. 

"Local authorities must reflect upon the outbreak at Xinfadi wholesale market in the city's Fengtai district and thoroughly implement epidemic prevention and control measures," read a circular from the Beijing Municipal Commerce Bureau that particularly named wedding ceremonies and banquets.

Beijing's housing authority on Monday also called for enhanced prevention measures at real estate property agencies and asked outlets in mid- and high-risk areas to stop activities that involve the gathering of people.

The news does not bode well for the city's consumption business, with a festive atmosphere going on both online - where a massive promotion event centered around June 18, involving various e-commerce platforms including and Alibaba's - and offline, with vendors hoping to ride a wave of summer consumption binging with the help of the city's 12.2 billion yuan ($1.72 billion) consumption vouchers. 

Ye Tanglin, a professor with the Capital University of Economics and Business, said the expected ramping-up of prevention measures will affect consumption that involves physical contact or gathering of people.

Beijing suddenly saw dozens of coronavirus infection cases over the weekend, after reporting zero local infection cases for nearly two months.

"The ripple effects of this round of the outbreak, though a short-term event, will seriously affect the city's consumption growth for the second quarter," Ye said.

A research note by Everbright Securities said on Monday that while the sudden spike of infection cases in Beijing has not translated into a large-scale epidemic, it has somewhat affected consumers' psychology.

The virus has already done serious damage to the city's services industry. According to a news post from the Ministry of Commerce dated March 24, Beijing canceled 4,300 Spring Festival cultural events, 6,909 shows and performances and shut down 2,075 entertainment venues since the outbreak began.

The city's social retail declined 12.5 percent year-on-year during the first quarter, when the economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak was strongest. Merchandise sales dropped 19 percent year-on-year to 256.46 billion yuan while the catering industry suffered a 48.4 percent decline with revenues of 15.19 billion yuan.

"But compared with the very imminent danger to people's lives from this sly virus, economic development has to take a back seat," Ye said.

Zhang agreed, saying epidemic prevention has to be the top priority. 


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