Tuesday 17 March 2020 2:12 pm

Coronavirus to spark record drop in international travel

Coronavirus is expected to cause a 10.5 per cent drop in international travel this year – the worst fall on record – as the outbreak sparks chaos across the tourism and leisure industries. 

Industry consultancy Tourism Economics has downgraded its estimate as coronavirus continues to spread across Europe, prompting governments to impose travel bans and airlines to ground flights. 

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Two weeks ago the consultancy estimated that travel rates will fall by 1.5 per cent when it was using the outbreak of Sars in 2003 as its benchmark. 

That scenario estimated that the virus could be contained by the end of the first half of the year and that travel rates could start to recover by July. 

If the containment measures are ramped up further Tourism Economics said travel could drop as much as 17.9 per cent, according the Reuters.

The Airport Operators Association this morning warned that airports could be forced to close within weeks without government support. Foreign secretary Dominic Raab has advised UK nationals against all non-essential travel anywhere in the world for the next 30 days. 

Yesterday British Airways owner, International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG) and Easyjet said they will ground aircraft on an unprecedented scale in an attempt to mitigate the effect of the travel restrictions.

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Meanwhile Virgin Atlantic said it will cut flights by 80 per cent as it tackles the coronavirus outbreak. The airline has also asked staff to take eight weeks of unpaid leave.

Troubled airline Flybe collapsed at the beginning of the  month after the coronavirus prompted a dramatic fall in bookings.