by Michael J. Shapiro | February 07, 2020
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250 travel managers responded to the survey.

USA - Concerns about the spread of the coronavirus and its effects on business travel are widespread among travel managers, according to the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA). In a flash survey the organisation conducted last week, 80 per cent of the nearly 250 respondents said it was likely their travellers will change plans to avoid flying and travel, while just 1 per cent said it is not at all likely their travellers will avoid travel. Nearly 90 per cent of the survey respondents have employees who travel to China and other international destinations.

Heightened concerns about the spread of the outbreak have moved to the top of most organisations, according to the survey, with eight in 10 travel managers reporting their executive and senior leaders are either very concerned (40 per cent) or somewhat concerned (40 per cent) about the virus and its impact on business travel and employee safety.

Nearly nine out of 10 travel managers (89 per cent) are personally concerned about the coronavirus spreading around the world, with a full 40 per cent saying they were "very concerned." 70 per cent of travel managers said their traveling employees have expressed a lot (27 percent) or some (42 percent) concern about the virus spreading. Half of travellers have expressed concern about the health screenings at airports, and the related delays and hassle.

"The impact of the coronavirus outbreak on travel in and out of China has been significant, causing the postponement and cancellation of incentive travel programs, many of which were years in the planning," wrote Society for Incentive Travel Excellence president Ms Jennifer Glynn, CIS, CITP, in an open letter to members of the organization.

After expressing concern for the health and safety of SITE members in China, Glynn offered a plea to SITE members around the globe: "Please do not rush to rash conclusions about the situation in China or the Asia-Pacific region," she cautioned. "SITE will continue to provide updates to our global memberships based on facts from trusted sources, such as the World Health Organization, and will not rely on sensationalist media headlines that induce panic."

Preliminary reports from lodging provider STR reveal a hotel occupancy decline of 75 per cent in mainland China from January 14-20, during the Chinese New Year period that has traditionally been filled with large celebrations. As for outbound travel from China, the United States is likely to experience a 28 per cent drop in visits for 2020, according to projections from STR partner Tourism Economics, equivalent to a loss of 4.6 million hotel room nights and US$5.8 billion in visitor spending.

This is an abridged version of an article that first appeared in Northstar Meetings Group