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Coronavirus to impact Utah tourism from China

Posted at 5:24 PM, Feb 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-18 19:24:44-05

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — The coronavirus and subsequent travel restrictions from China are expected to cut into Utah’s tourism this year.

Chinese visitors make up the second largest number of international tourists to Utah, only behind Canadians. However, COVID-19, also known as the "new" or "novel" coronavirus, has all but shut down travel between China and the United States through April.

At the State Capitol Tuesday, bus loads of Chinese tourists are noticeably missing.

From national parks to museums, Chinese visitors spend approximately $127 million a year in the Beehive State, according to the office of tourism — money that is now in jeopardy because of efforts to contain the virus to China.

“There definitely will be an economic impact,” said Vicki Varela, Director of the Utah Office of Tourism and Film.

While Varela believes it’s too soon to know the full scope, a report by Tourism Economics shows Utah will be one of the states hardest hit by Chinese tourist travel restrictions.

The report estimates a total of 1.6 million U.S. visits from China will be lost, more than half predicted this year.

“Of course, the big question is how long it goes on? If it's a month, then that’s a disruption but not a total economic setback. If it is two months, that gets more challenging. Three months, we just don’t know,” Varela said.

Varela told FOX 13 the impact could be felt at hotels, restaurants, car rentals, bus tours and outdoor outfitters all across Utah. She adds, however, it’s a price worth paying to contain the virus that’s sickened more than 75,000 and killed 1,868 in China.

“We just want everybody to get well,” Varela said.