The Foreign Affairs ministry has advised Kenyans against all but necessary travel to China as a precaution, following the quick spread of a virus that has left at least 81 people dead so far.
In a statement on Monday, Principal Secretary Macharia Kamau emphasised the warning in the case of Wuhan, the epicentre of the new coronavirus.
The deadly virus that has prompted travel restrictions in China is sending shockwaves through Asia’s tourism industry, which has become increasingly reliant on growing numbers of Chinese visitors.
At least 81 people have died since the new strain emerged in Wuhan, and millions are now under an effective quarantine, with all flights in and out of the city grounded and a ban on Chinese tour groups domestically and abroad.
The measures come amid a boom in Chinese foreign travel, with the number of tourists from the country increasing nearly tenfold since 2003, according to a report by research firm Capital Economics.
There will be a less immediate impact in Europe, which is currently off peak season for visitors from China.
The outbreak carries echoes of the SARS crisis, which paralysed regional travel and battered local economies from late 2002. Chinese tourist numbers then fell by around a third.
“If they fell by a similar amount again, it would knock around 1.5-2.0 percentage points from (gross domestic product) in the most vulnerable countries,” Capital Economics said.
In Japan, the fall in Chinese visitors was already being felt in Asakusa, a popular tourist destination near the Sensoji temple.
“We’ve definitely been seeing less people this year,” said Yoshie Yoneyama, 31, manager of a shop selling traditional Japanese sweets and a rice-based drink called amazake.
“I think there are less than half the numbers of last year or the year before,” she told AFP.
The number of Chinese holidaying in Japan has exploded from around 450,000 in 2003 to 8.4 million in 2018, accounting for 27 per cent of all inbound tourists as Tokyo works to expand the sector.
But it will now be “very difficult” for Japan to achieve its target of 40 million tourists in 2020, Yuki Takashima, an economist at Nomura Securities, told AFP.
Australia too, already reeling from the effects of the bushfire crisis, is likely to feel the impact.
Chinese visitor numbers doubled in the six years to June 2019, with mainlanders now accounting for 15 per cent of Australia’s inbound tourists.
The impact will be felt less immediately in Europe, which does not attract as many visitors from China during the winter.
Swiss tourism officials said they also expected a decline in bookings from China, which makes up 4.5 per cent of all hotel nights bookings.
Kurt Janson, director of Britain’s Tourism Alliance, said Chinese visitors to the UK represent less than two per cent of the annual total “so there will not be any significant overall impact”.