Tourists are understandably hesitant to visit Europe as the serious effects of the deadly A1/H1N1 virus have begun to wear off and museum operators launch their fall season.
The head of the U.K.’s National Gallery, Nicholas Penny, reports that ticket sales across the institution are “materially down,” according to the Wall Street Journal. Over 200 of Britain’s 320 museums have reported losses in attendance as a result of the outbreak. The situation was most pronounced in Italy, where both the northern city of Milan and the Florence tourist city of Florence have reported a 30 percent decline in attendance.
In Germany, officials at the German Society for the Promotion of Cultural Heritage fear that the outbreak could hurt German museums’ efforts to win more tourists to their country. In July, Germany ranked fourth in the world in UNESCO’s list of the world’s top cultural tourism destinations, but the number of tourists coming from abroad dropped by 2.5 percent after the outbreak. (Visits from within Germany dropped 6.5 percent.) But European tourism professionals have responded with a note of optimism.
With the exception of the U.K., many of the affected countries have bounced back, seeing a year-over-year boost in attendance, led by Rome, which reported an increase of 7.5 percent. In the U.K., however, the numbers are expected to continue to drop, with a new government poll showing that 73 percent of people polled think the outbreak is over for the country.
Europe is not the only place facing decreased tourism as a result of the epidemic. In China, tourist arrivals to Hong Kong — the only city in Asia with a travel boom — plunged 37 percent since May, but is beginning to rebound, particularly in key cities like Beijing and Guangzhou. U.S. travelers too, are feeling the pressure, as a September report from the National Association of Travel Agents found that a 10 percent decline in travel volumes was reported in major markets like Florida, Washington, New York and California. A smaller percentage of U.S. travelers went abroad from airports in the east, but still accounted for about 36 percent of all international inbound travelers.
This story was originally published by The Washington Post.