Coronavirus Continues To Infect Business Travel, Meetings Biz

By Elizabeth West & Chris Davis

As the novel coronavirus outbreak further grips China, the vast majority of transient business travel between China and the United States has been scuttled, for now. For the business travel industry, some focus has turned to the virus' effect on the staging or and attendance at meetings and conventions.
The coronavirus, the respiratory illness formally dubbed COVID-19 by the World Health Organization, has infected more than 60,000 people in dozens of countries—though the vast majority are in mainland China—and killed more than 1,300.

There is no direct airline service to China from the United States and many other countries, and the U.S. government has banned most foreign travelers who have recently visited mainland China.

Dozens of airlines throughout the world, including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, Air France, British Airways and Lufthansa, have suspended all flights to mainland China at least through the end of this month and in many cases longer. Some have also suspended service to Hong Kong. Most hotel chains have waived, updated or extended at least through the end of February their cancellation and change policies for the Greater China region. The Global Business Travel Association recently surveyed its buyer members to assess the ways in which they were responding to the outbreak (see charts). A number of industry sources are beginning to paint a stark picture.

According to Airlines Reporting Corp., airline sales transactions for intra-China routes as well as inbound and outbound international during the Jan. 29 to Feb. 4 period collectively declined 47 percent year over year, while exchanges increased 59 percent and cancellations increased 604 percent. That data, the most recent available, is derived from Direct Data Solutions, a global air transaction dataset managed by ARC and the International Air Transport Association.

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