Individual tourists and groups from China and Asia must not be stigmatised because of the latest coronavirus outbreak, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council.
The trade body is warning against disproportionate reactions which could result in discrimination.
The panic, seen as a way of containing the coronavirus, could run the risk of stigmatising one of the biggest tourist groups in the world and could even cause long-term harm.
The appeal for more understanding was made by the London-based World Travel & Tourism Council.
The body is led by chief executive Gloria Guevara, who, as a former Mexican tourism minister, was closely involved in 2010 with the aftermath, and recovery, from the outbreak of the H1N1 influenza virus.
There have now been more than 40,000 worldwide cases of the virus, with 98 per cent confined to China.
The death toll stands at 1,016.
Officials at the World Health Organisation have declared the outbreak a global health emergency.
Gloria Guevara said: “We must not stigmatise.
“The coronavirus will not be solved by singling out individuals or groups from any country, such as China or those in other parts of Asia.
“While some of this misguided action may be well-meaning and it is clearly important the tourism sector plays its part to contain the spread of the coronavirus, this will not be achieved by alienating the world’s biggest tourist group.
“China has become a key global player and its tourism market has experienced massive growth in recent years.
“Chinese tourists, travelling both individually and within groups account for 16 per cent of the world’s international travel spending.
“More widely, Asia has experienced nearly seven per cent% booming average annual growth in the sector over the last decade.
The tourism sector has a proven track record of resilience in the face of crises and this ability to bounce back has improved significantly in recent years.
According to WTTC research the average recovery time from crises has decreased from 26 months to ten months between 2001 and 2018.
An analysis of previous major viral epidemics by experts from WTTC, shows the average recovery time for visitor numbers to a destination was 19.4 months.
However, with the right response and management it could recover in under a year.
Image: Sipa Asia/SIPA USA/PA Images
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