EXCLUSIVE: Consumers on Covid-19 and travelling

By Luke Barras-hill |

Main-coronavirus-travellers-revealAn experienced cross-section of travel bloggers from across the globe have spoken frankly and dispassionately about the ongoing impacts of the coronavirus outbreak (Covid-19) and what it means for their travel plans.

In a series of vox-pop style interviews undertaken during the recent consumer-voted Travel Retail Awards judging held in London last week, consumers offered invaluable commentary to the DF&TR industry in a manner that cuts through prevailing – and often fear-inducing – global media headlines [click below to watch the video].

The Covid-19 situation continues to remain unstable, volatile and constantly evolving with concerns surrounding the unpredictability of transmissions, notably in Europe with Italy alone reporting more than 400 cases of the virus.

At the time of writing, more than 80,000 people have been infected globally – the vast majority being in China – with over 2,800 deaths.

While reports the virus could trigger a global recession are perhaps wide of the mark at this stage, any graduation to pandemic status could colour what in the early stages was certainly a more optimistic outlook.

In analysis released earlier this month, credit ratings agency Moody’s Analytics pointed out that while the coronavirus is perhaps more contagious, SARS, MERS-CoV and even Ebola were more virulent.

While the number of deaths from coronavirus has now outpaced that of SARS and MERS-CoV, the infection to mortality rate for SARS and MERS-CoV remains higher at 10% and 33%, respectively.

In the case SARS, an estimated 8,098 people were taken sick and 774 lost their lives between November 2002 and July 2003, while approximately 2,494 cases and 858 deaths from MERS-CoV been recorded since September 2012.

As reported in the early stages of the outbreak, this publication judged that Covid-19’s 2-3% fatality rate quoted by some international media outlets oversimplified what is an immensely complex situation. Then, as now, TRBusiness is choosing not to align itself to such figures.


Moody’s Analytics Chief Economist Mark Zandi told Bloomberg yesterday that should the situation be declared a pandemic, a global recession would be ‘likely’, a view that comes amid violent shudders in global equity markets in recent days.

Drinks giant Diageo has warned of a negative fiscal effect on its organic operating profit to the tune of £140m/$180m to £200m/$257m.

It noted that the ‘timing and pace of recovery’ would determine the impact within the aforementioned ranges.


Vox pop-coronavirus-travellers

While not carrying the virus, some revealed feelings of ‘guilt’ when embarking on their journeys due to the origin markets they had travelled from.

“The COVID-19 situation is dynamic and continues to evolve and these ranges exclude any impact of the Covid-19 situation on other markets beyond South Korea, Japan and Thailand,” stated the company.

“We will continue to monitor the situation closely. We remain confident in the growth opportunities in our Greater China and Asia Pacific business. We will continue to invest behind our brands, ensuring we are strongly positioned for the expected recovery in consumer demand.”

In South Korea, where the number of infections has surged in recent days, sales at leading DF&TR operator Lotte Duty Free have eroded, with a well-informed source pointing towards a negative impact of up to -45% at its flagship Myeongdong shop in the past month.

“The airport stores are [doing] worse,” they commented. “It’s not only about Korea – the situation in China has to resolve itself.”

The DF&TR industry showed remarkable resilience during the storms of SARS and MERS over the past two decades, and will continue to steel itself through Covid-19.

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