British Columbia

Travel agency says business has plunged 40% due to coronavirus outbreak

Happy Times Travel in Vancouver is struggling as Chinese tourism grinds to a halt and owner Glynnis Chan worries it will take a long time for business to bounce back.

Owner of Vancouver-based Happy Times Travel says slump is worse than it was during SARS outbreak

Air Canada is one of several airlines that have suspended services to mainland China as a cautionary measure in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Glynnis Chan has been in the travel industry for more than four decades and has never seen business as bad as it is right now, she says.

As a result of the outbreak of novel coronavirus and the subsequent suspension of flight services in and out of China, Chan estimates business at Happy Times Travel, where she is president and owner, is down 40 per cent compared to the same time last year.

"It's a really uncertain situation for people who want to go anywhere," said Chan on The Early Edition on Thursday.

Canada has not banned incoming flights from China, but airlines have. Air Canada has suspended daily flights between Shanghai and Beijing and Vancouver International Airport, while Cathay Pacific has suspended 90 per cent of flights into mainland China until March 28.

Numerous other airlines around the world have also reduced or halted service to China.

The coronavirus has infected more than 28,200 people, the vast majority of them in China. Chinese health authorities have reported more than 560 deaths.

A look at the travel restrictions, screening processes and precautions in place during the coronavirus outbreak. 2:00

Chan's business, which has two locations in Vancouver, is heavily dependent on travel to and from B.C. and China and she is worried. She said her business is faring poorer now than during the 2003 SARS crisis.

The travel industry veteran said she thinks business will continue to suffer after the outbreak because many people in China have not been able to work, as they are living in lockdown or quarantine in order to prevent the virus from spreading.

Chan said if business remains dire she may consider approaching her landlord, the City of Vancouver, for rent relief.

For now, Chan said her staff does have a lot of work — but that mostly involves cancelling flights and requesting refunds for numerous customers who would prefer to stay put.

To hear the complete interview with Glynnis Chan on The Early Edition, tap the audio link below:

Glynnis Chan, president and owner of Happy Times Travel, on the negative impact on business due to the coronavirus outbreak. 7:35

With files from The Early Edition and The Associated Press

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