Last updated: 09:59 AM ET, Thu June 11 2015

Report: Flight Bookings To South Korea Plummet Amid MERS Outbreak

Airlines & Airports | Rich Thomaselli | June 11, 2015

Report: Flight Bookings To South Korea Plummet Amid MERS Outbreak

PHOTO: Workers spray antiseptic solution on the arrival lobby amid rising public concerns over the spread of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) at Incheon International Airport in South Korea. (courtesy Twitter/

An outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in South Korea has had a dramatic impact on travel to the country in less than three weeks since the first reported case of the potentially deadly virus.

According to ForwardKeys, data shows that from May 20 to June 5, total international bookings to South Korea were down 14.9 percent, while total cancellations were up 21.3 percent compared with the same period last year.

ForwardKeys is a travel company that predicts future travel patterns by analyzing date from 14 million booking transactions a day to monitor and anticipate traveler arrivals and stay trends from a particular origin market at a specific time.

The first case of MERS in South Korea was reported on May 20. Since then, Honk Kong and Taiwan have issued travel warnings to South Korea and the results have seen a huge drop in bookings – 102 percent from Hong Kong compared to last year, 83 percent from Taiwan.

“The MERS outbreak in South Korea seems to be having an immediate impact, creating a climate of panic for those with imminent travel plans. International air reservations reacted within five days of the first reported case of MERS in South Korea,” Olivier Jager, co-founder and CEO, ForwardKeys, said in a statement. “After June 1, we saw steeper drops in bookings and increases in cancellations.”

Across nine countries and Hong Kong, total bookings have collapsed, down 55.1 percent. That includes China (down 72 percent), Singapore (down 48.9 percent), Thailand (down 33.4 percent) and the United States (down 28 percent).

Said Mario Hardy, CEO Pacific Asia Travel Association: “It is always concerning to read travel advisories in these circumstances because the impact of the disease has gone beyond the health of those people infected to threaten the livelihoods of more people who work in the travel industry.  It is important that the authorities are open and transparent in dealing with this virus so that the travelling public are in full possession of all the facts and there is no unnecessary alarm and panic.”

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