Coronavirus crisis triggers downturn in business travel, trade show cancellations Continued from page 72

O’Leary said: “There has been a notable drop in bookings towards the end of March.” EasyJet reported “significant

softening of demand” to and from northern Italy at the end of last week and “slower demand across other European markets”. It said: “We will be making decisions to cancel flights, particularly into and out of Italy.” The carrier announced a

series of cost-cutting measures “including budget cuts [and] recruitment, promotion and pay freezes across the network”. Ryanair also announced pay and recruitment freezes, and said staff could take unpaid leave. The Lufthansa Group

extended suspension of flights to mainland China until April 24 and to Iran to the end of April. It announced reduced frequencies to Italy, Seoul and Hong Kong, with flights between Munich and Hong Kong suspended until April 24 and passengers rebooked via Frankfurt and Zurich “where possible”. Lufthansa also cut

frequencies in March to Milan, Venice, Rome, Turin, Verona, Bologna, Ancona and Pisa. Swiss cut frequencies to

Florence, Milan, Rome and Venice until the end of April and the Lufthansa Group said: “Short and medium-haul flights may be reduced by up to 25% in the coming weeks.” All the carriers reported it

was too early to estimate the cost of the coronavirus crisis. IAG’s announcement came

as it reported a €1.7 billion profit after tax for 2019. This was 41% down on 2018, but outgoing chief executive Willie Walsh hailed “good results in a year affected by disruption and higher fuel prices”.

GBTA survey highlights ‘significant’ cost of virus

The coronavirus could cost the corporate travel sector $47 billion a month or up to 37% of the industry’s forecast spending this year, according to the Global Business Travel Association. The GBTA warned: “The

coronavirus has the potential to threaten the entire global business travel industry.” A poll of more than 400 GBTA

member companies last week suggested the virus is having a “significant impact” on business meetings and events. Two-thirds (65%) of respondents reported cancelling meetings, with one in five (18%) cancelling “many”, and 66% postponing meetings or events. Of those who had cancelled or

suspended business travel, 54% were unsure when meetings might resume. Almost a third (31%) expected travel to resume within three months and 14% tipped delays of up to six months. A majority of suppliers reported

Cancelled: ITB Berlin and Pata Annual Summit

Two of the industry’s biggest global events have been cancelled amid efforts to contain the coronavirus. ITB Berlin, the world’s largest

travel trade show which was due to be held this week, was cancelled late last Friday. On Monday, the Pacific Asia Travel Association (Pata) cancelled its annual summit in Ras Al Khaimah, in the UAE, due to take place at the end of March. ITB organiser Messe Berlin

70 5 MARCH 2020

the coronavirus had hit revenues, with airlines and hospitality providers among the worst affected – 24% reporting a “significant” impact and 31% “moderate”. Only 14% of respondents reported no impact. The results highlighted the

impact on travel to Asia with 95% of respondents reporting they had cancelled or suspended “most” or “all” business trips to China. A majority (73%) had taken similar steps for travel to Hong Kong and 54% to Taiwan, with 45% cancelling

said the German ministries of health and economics “stated their opinion that ITB Berlin be cancelled”, noting: “The health authority imposed significantly tighter restrictions on the event.” It said the authority “stipulated

that each participant prove they were not from a designated risk area or had not been in contact with a person from a risk area. It is not possible for Messe Berlin to satisfy these requirements.” Up to 130,000 participants were

expected at ITB. Pata chief executive Mario

Hardy described the association’s decision to cancel its Annual Summit as “tremendously difficult”,

Mario Hardy

saying: “We are extremely disappointed. However, we believe it best we made this decision in a clear and timely manner.” Hardy said: “We encourage all

industry stakeholders to remain calm and take proper precautions.” Two-thirds of

GBTA members have cancelled meetings

If this turns into a

pandemic, the industry may lose billions, with have ramifications for the global economy

or suspending travel to other Asia-Pacific countries. Almost one in four (23%) reported

cancelling or suspending some trips to European countries, although only 8% had cancelled or suspended “most” or “all” European trips. Scott Solombrino, GBTA

chief operating officer, said: “The coronavirus is having a significant – and potentially very costly – effect on our members, their companies and the business travel industry. If this turns into a global pandemic, the industry may lose billions of dollars, with negative ramifications for the global economy.”


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