SARS plunges Far East C&I infrastructure into chaos

The SARS virus has thrown Asia’s C&I industry into uncertainty. The areas most afflicted, China’s Beijing, Shanxi and Guangdong provinces and Hong Kong, are the subject of warnings from the World Health Organisation (WHO), which advises against non-essential travel to those regions. Other areas of the Far East, such as Thailand and Singapore, are also feeling the strain although there are no specific warnings against travel to them. World Event Management (WEM) sales and marketing director Graham Keene said “alarm bells are ringing” at the mention of any Far Eastern country at the moment. “We’ve had two Far East events postponed – one to Hong Kong and one to Thailand,” he said. Linda Piggott, director at McGarvey Russell, also said clients were thinking twice about programmes to the Far East. “We have an event planned for an Asian destination this summer, but there is already a European contingency lined up, and the client will make a final decision nearer the event,” she added. A spokeswoman for the Hong Kong Tourism Board said they know of two C&I groups to be postponed but long-term interest remains strong. The region’s hotels are reported to be running at below 10% occupancy, while Singaporean hotels are said to be at 30%, compared to 70% last year. A survey by the Singapore Hotel Association of 33 hotels representing 55% of the country’s stock found they had lost 65,000 bednights through cancellations between the end of March and June, amounting to a S$10.1m (£3.6m) loss in revenue. Asian countries are eager to work for long-term business though. Singapore has announced relief measures worth S$230m (£81m), while the Hong Kong government has set aside a HK$1bn (£80m) fund to promote travel, exhibitions and commerce as soon as the disease is under control. A series of large-scale promotions for Hong Kong will run for at least six months after the travel warnings are lifted.

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