Thursday 09 April 2020

Business gets the chills as corona crisis infects flights and tourism

Fight or flight? Coronavirus has an impact Photo: jvanderwolf via Depositphotos

The airline and hospitality industries in the Netherlands are already experiencing severe symptoms from the coronavirus.

Hospitality sector association KHN reports that cancellations have risen by 48%, according to a survey of almost 4,000 of its members. Meanwhile Schiphol airport has announced that passenger numbers dropped by a fifth in the first week of March. If all flights to and from the United States are temporarily cancelled – as president Donald Trump has announced – Schiphol expects the fall to be 30%.

Galleries like the Van Gogh Museum are closed, train stations deserted and parents limited to dropping off their children at the doors of schools a day after prime minister Mark Rutte banned meetings of more than 100 people and called for everyone with cold symptoms to self-isolate.

Crisis

The KHN – which represents bars, cafés and hotels – has said that the emergency measures to limit the spread of the virus are already having a serious impact. Chairman Robèr Willemsen said in a press conference: ‘Koninklijke Horeca Nederland has serious concerns about the economic impact of the coronavirus on the hospitality sector.

‘Now that the coronavirus is spreading across our country too, hospitality owners are seeing that it brings serious financial consequences with it. The new rules and proposed stop in flights between Europe and America mean we are talking about a crisis. These rules affect tourism and therefore on hospitality.’

He said that cancellations had risen by almost half and new reservations were sluggish, while the KHN survey found that hospitality owners believe that they could make losses of 33% due to the emergency measures.

Smaller Schiphol

Dick Benschop, chief executive of the Royal Schiphol Group, said the airport is considering a drastic contraction in order to ensure that essential flights and medical supply freight stay in the air. ‘If we have another 10% drop in passengers, we will have a snowball effect that could see the Netherlands headed to the worst point of the corona crisis,’ he said.

‘We are heading for a unique situation. One scenario we are looking at is to organise a smaller Schiphol and concentrate operations, to stay in the air and to keep the Netherlands in contact with the world.’

He added that for the moment, the most ‘disquiet’ is being experienced by passengers who want to return to America or are unsure if they will still be able to fly home to the Netherlands.

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