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SARS Impacts Business in Asia - 2003-04-15


SARS is having an impact on business in Asia. Laura Keel reports on this.

From China to Indonesia, trade and tourism are suffering. The latest cause – SARS. As fears over the outbreak of the deadly disease spread, travel and commerce in the region are declining.

In China’s Guangdong province, the epicenter of the virus, the annual Chinese Export Commodities Fair opened to far fewer participants than usual.

Despite the fanfare, attendance was low at this year's fair, an event that has been mounted every year since 1957.

NATURAL SOUND MAN SPEAKING

This participant says many exhibitors were skipping China's biggest trade fair due to the outbreak of the deadly virus.

The World Health Organization has issued an advisory against travel to Hong Kong and nearby Guangdong province -- the heartland of China's export-driven boom and the country's wealthiest region.

The outbreak of SARS started in Guangdong province in November. Hong Kong and China have been hardest hit.

In Bali, Indonesia – where the tourism industry is just recovering from last October’s terrorist bombings – deep concerns over the combined impacts of terrorism, the war in Iraq and SARS are being debated during the Pacific Asia Travel Association conference. The event is especially important for Bali, which needs to show tourism executives that the jewel of Indonesia's tourism industry and one of the world's top holiday destinations is recovering from terrorism.

Pacific Asia Travel Association officials have hoped that by going ahead with the meeting in Indonesia they are showing the industry will not be intimidated by terrorism or SARS. So far no SARS case has been confirmed in Indonesia but a possible case has been reported.

Several countries, including the United States, Britain and Australia, have cautioned their citizens against travelling to Indonesia and several other Asian nations.

Nguyen Tuanh Anh, vice manager of Vietnam Airlines can testify that travel is now declining.

NGUYEN TUANH ANH, VICE MANAGER, VIETNAM AIRLINES
"Hotel rates have dropped, load factor has dropped, airline rates have dropped. Everything has dropped. We hope it will be over soon."

Small businesses have already suffered the heaviest blow, facing bankruptcy and layoffs. Empty souvenir shops and restaurants are now common scenes in Bali. Many small business owners are feeling the same way shopkeeper Nyoman Gantiyarsa does.

NYOMAN GANTIYARSA, SHOPKEEPER
"Next year we will not be able to pay the store's rent. Hopefully the owner will give us some sort of an arrangement to lighten our burden."

Such are the multiple blows currently hitting Asia's tourism industry, now facing its greatest challenge yet as fears over SARS have further discouraged travel in the region.

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