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New Chinese coronavirus will have severe consequences for Russia's tourism sector – industry chiefs

New Chinese coronavirus will have severe consequences for Russia's tourism sector – industry chiefs
Russia's tourism industry will be badly hit by the outbreak of the new Chinese coronavirus. That's according to Sergey Shpilko, head of Russian travel industry union RUT.

Speaking to Interfax, he explained how China is the single largest source of tourism for the Russian market. With almost two million visitors every year, the country accounts for around 18% of tourists to Russia, excluding the former USSR.

Shpilko forecast that the virus could reduce this figure by a factor of five, leaving a "significant number" of hotel rooms empty.

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The grim prediction comes a day after it was revealed that the Chinese government had temporarily banned its citizens from booking overseas tours, in groups.  However, Chinese holidaymakers who have already arrived in Russia can remain inside the country.

According to RUT Vice President Yuri Barykin, the suspension will last "until the situation normalizes." The organization has tentatively timetabled this scenario for the end of February.

If the projection is correct, the ban could be devastating for the tourist industry in Russia. In the first quarter of last year, 130,000 Chinese vacationers visited Russia, providing a vital source of business during the ‘off-season’. Travel industry insiders had predicted that this number would increase in 2020.

China’s decision to ban prevent its citizens from group travel was announced after the number of fatalities, from the new coronavirus, reached 106. It has now spread to at least 13 countries across four continents, but as yet there are no confirmed infections in Russia.

Last Friday, Russia’s Federal Agency for Tourism recommended that Russian tourists refrain from traveling to China. While many Russian airlines are still flying there, Ural Airlines, based in the city of Yekaterinburg, has canceled all flights to its only Chinese destination – Hainan Island.

Anna Popova, head of Russia's consumer watchdog Rospotrebnadzor, told news agency TASS that passengers on over 20,000 flights have been checked for the coronavirus. Over 100 were highlighted as potentially infected, but as yet none of these tests has proven positive.

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