Chinese Coronavirus: Should I Travel to Southeast Asia?

woman wearing mask during coronavirus in southeast asia
Image Credit: Tim Russell

As the Chinese Coronavirus continues to spread, and the WHO declares it a “public health emergency of international concern”, travelers to Southeast Asia – which has seen several cases of the virus since its outbreak – have justifiable concerns about their safety. So if you’re traveling a trip to the region soon, should you be concerned?

Firstly, let’s look at the numbers. So far, Thailand has had 20 cases, Singapore 13, Vietnam 2, Cambodia 1. Apart from one case in Thailand, all the cases have been Chinese visitors, who have either recovered and been sent home, or are recovering in hospital. 

Secondly, let’s look at what the region is doing to help stop the virus spreading. Flights in and out of Wuhan have now been suspended for several days, whilst all countries are scanning visitors for fever and several are considering halting visas on arrival for visitors from China. Thailand, where Go Real Travel’s Asia office is based, is ranked sixth in the world in terms of its ability to deal with virus outbreaks and has already put measures in place in airports and shopping malls to help stop the spread of the virus. 

Thirdly, some perspective. During the 2019-20 winter flu season in the US, 15 million cases have been recorded, with 1300 deaths. Thailand reported over 100,000 dengue fever cases in 2019. In neither case were travel bans or advisories imposed. Going back to the last virus outbreak scare – SARS in 2003 – our region’s tourism industry was decimated, yet the actual number of cases, and deaths, was minuscule. 9 cases in Thailand, 63 in Vietnam, 5 in Malaysia, 2 in Indonesia. Like the coronavirus, it was only life-threatening to the elderly and the infirm. And yet, as with the coronavirus today, the media painted Southeast Asia as a giant no-go zone causing huge economic damage that simply wasn’t warranted.

family wearing masks in thailand because of coronavirus outbreak
Image Credit: Tim Russell

Finally, let’s have a look at our Asia office, which is located in central Bangkok. Our Asia team are all healthy and well, and are going about their daily lives as they always do, no more nervous or afraid than they were before coronavirus reared its ugly head. They continue to welcome our Asia clients, none of whom have so far seen fit to cancel their trips and have all returned home healthy—and happy. 

Indeed, with visitor numbers lower, the next few months may be the best opportunity to enjoy a quieter, more peaceful Southeast Asia for many years – certainly, if you want to experience the likes of Angkor Wat or Doi Suthep without large tour groups, Spring 2020 is almost certainly the time do it, and you’ll benefit from reduced hotel and flight prices too. 

Elsewhere, Forbes reports that Wall Street feels the virus is about to bottom out, with Asia poised to rebound; whilst Benzinga quotes US travel industry leaders who feel there is little reason to panic – ‘“It is important to keep this in perspective,” said John Lovell, President, Leisure Travel, Supplier Relations & Networks, Travel Leaders Group. “While it’s true that there are roughly 45,000 cases in China; there are about 440 confirmed cases outside of China and 13 in the United States. Less than one percent of the cases are outside of China. Aside from a travel advisory to avoid travel to China, there are no travel warnings regarding any other destination.”’

We are not trying to mask or minimize the dangers of this new virus, and we accept that it is in its early stages and may get worse before it gets better. But for the moment our message is that Thailand & Southeast Asia are still very much open for business and still welcoming thousands of international travelers.

If you’re still considering a trip to Southeast Asia, please get in touch with our Asia sales team who will happily discuss your arrangements, the current situation, and what you can do to make sure your trip is an enjoyable and healthy one. 

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