This same theory held true for potential tourists. Thurow contends, "There is no reason for a tourist to be brave. They are on vacation to have fun and there are a lot of other fun places to visit that do not have SARS (5). With the quarantines, the screenings, and general panic experienced in Southeastern Asia (mostly due to the swift reaction by the World Health Organization), tourism almost came to a complete stop during the months following the initial recognition of SARS (5). And as Thurow notes, the memory of the SARS epidemic will not disappear from people's minds anytime soon, and will continue to hurt business in Southeast Asia (5).
The last factor contributing to the massive decrease in tourism is the way the Chinese government handled the outbreak. Firstly, the government was slow to initially report the first couple of hundred cases of the virus. Tourism is a major industry in the country, and the government tried to sidestep SARS in order not to slow down this major source of revenue.
Their efforts, however, backfired on them. It was not until over three hundred people were infected with the virus that China finally allowed World Health Organization workers into the country (which partly explains the organization's panicked response). From the onset of SARS, people became skeptical of the validity of China's information reports concerning the outbreak.
In early April, China perpetuated their image as "unreliable" when they announced the virus was reaching a standstill, when in fact, it was at its peak since the outbreak6. After the World Health Organization revealed the inconsistency in the official Chinese report, more people throughout the world became skeptical about the legitimacy of the government's information.
Again, in early May, the Chinese government falsely announced that the outbreak had "crested," when this was far from the truth (6). Journalist Tang Shaping noted that China's handling of the outbreak reduced overall confidence in the nation in the eyes of the world community (6). He writes, "Regional countries are complaining that (China) did not alert them earlier so that they could have taken precautionary measures. Opinion columns are lashing out that China cannot be a responsible great power and does not know how to behave like one because Beijing has yet to grasp that its policies will have far greater consequence in the age of globalization (6)."
Overall, the tourism industry in Southeastern Asia suffered severely from the SARS outbreak. Job losses in the major regions affected by the virus are close to reaching seven million7. As of June, the economic losses (primarily related to tourism) in Southeastern Asia are close to $1 billion, and if uncertainty about the containment of the disease remains, this number could triple in the months to come (7). The primary losers in the SARS outbreak were hotels in the major Asian cities of Beijing, Bangkok, and Hong Kong. Some of these hotels' revenues were cut in half, while others were simply forced out of business (7).
In conclusion, the year 2003 was marked by a number of natural disasters throughout the world, but none more devastating and threatening than the outbreak of a new virus now known as SARS. The magnitude of the affect SARS had on the tourism industry is attributable to three factors: the nature of the virus, the reaction by World Health Organization officials, and finally, the inadequacy in which local governments (specifically the Chinese) handled the epidemic. The lesson to be learned (from my vantage point as a college student) from the SARS outbreak is basically one of diligence. Governments and organizations can not attempt to hide virus outbreaks, but rather do everything in their power to combat them. Additionally, governments reliant upon foreign tourism need to earn the trust of these potential travelers by keeping them updated with factual information. As a traveler and potential candidate for studying abroad, China greatly reduced my confidence in their nation as a potential place to visit because I can not trust my safety will be assured in a country focussing on reputation rather than well-being.
Neer, Catherine. "How SARS Works." How Stuff Works Website. Accessed June 24, 2003. http://www.sars.ws/
Sars Info Center. Accessed June 24, 2003. www.sars.com
"SARS." Center for Disease Control Website. Accessed June 24, 2003. http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/sars/.
4"SARS Timeline." CBC News Website. June 12, 2003. Accessed June 24, 2003. http://www.cbc.ca/news/indepth/background/sars_timeline.html
Thurow, Lester. "Economic Impact of SARS." May 2003. Accessed June 24, 2003. (Online
Shiping, Tang. "A Silver Lining to SARS Crisis in Beijing." Straits Times.…