14 new cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, have been reported in South Korea in the last 24 hours. This brings the total of confirmed cases to 122. Today, South Korea's Health Ministry has announced the 10th fatality from the MERS virus outbreak. More than 54,000 inbound travelers have canceled their trips to the country in the past month, the Korea Tourism Board reported.
Flight bookings to South Korea have plummeted following an outbreak of MERS, according to latest figures from ForwardKeys.
Olivier Jager, Co-founder and CEO, ForwardKeys, said: “The MERS outbreak in South Korea seems to be having an immediate impact, creating a climate of panic for those with imminent travel plans. International air reservations reacted within five days of the first reported case of MERS in South Korea. After 1 June, we saw steeper drops in bookings and increases in cancellations.
“Obviously, we will continue to monitor bookings activity in the area closely, to keep the industry up to date with the latest developments.”
Variation of Total Reservations vs. the Same Period 2014
Hardest hit were flight reservations from Hong Kong – down 102% for the same period last year, based on net weekly bookings (ie: bookings – cancellations).
Across nine countries and Hong Kong, total bookings have collapsed, down 55.1%, with Taiwan down 83.1%, China down 72%, Singapore down 48.9%, Thailand down 33.4% and the USA down 28%.
Daily Bookings and Cancellations - International Trips to South Korea 20 May to 5 June 2015
ForwardKeys data shows that from 20 May to 5 June 2015 total international bookings to South Korea were down 14.9%, while total cancellations were up 21.3%, compared with the same period last year. The most dramatic changes in bookings and cancellations occurred during the first days of June, with bookings down 32.3% and cancellations increased by 27.8%.
Weekly Performance of Arrivals on the Book 6 June to 28 August 2015 vs 2014
Looking further into the future, the ForwardKeys data shows there have already been significant cancellations and a drop in last-minute bookings for travel to South Korea in June, though July appears to be relatively unaffected at this stage.
Mario Hardy, CEO Pacific Asia Travel Association, said: “It is always concerning to read travel advisories in these circumstances because the impact of the disease has gone beyond the health of those people infected to threaten the livelihoods of more people who work in the travel industry. It is important that the authorities are open and transparent in dealing with this virus so that the travelling public are in full possession of all the facts and there is no unnecessary alarm and panic.”