Influenza A Continues to Impact Travel to New Zealand - RePress

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Thursday, May 21

Influenza A Continues to Impact Travel to New Zealand

ew Zealand’s tourism industry is facing the prospect of a further downturn in international visitors from Asia as Influenza A (H1N1) continues to spread around the world.

As of 19 May, 40 countries have officially reported cases of Influenza A (H1N1) infection, also called Swine Flu.

Unfortunately for the New Zealand tourism industry, infections have now been identified in the highly-sensitive markets of China and Japan, New Zealand’s fourth and fifth biggest tourism markets.

"We know that people are reviewing, postponing and cancelling travel to all international destinations and New Zealand has to expect that it will take a share of that," says Tourism New Zealand Chief Executive George Hickton.

On Tuesday 19 May, there were over 150 confirmed cases of Influenza A (H1N1) in Japan, mostly in schools and colleges in the Osaka and Kobe region. The figure is rising daily, but most of the infections are not serious.

Japanese local authorities have now closed public schools in the region. Some universities and private schools have also closed. While the virus still appears to be relatively mild, it is likely there will be further restrictions on school travel as a result.

So far, Japanese school groups have accounted for about two-thirds of notified cancellations and postponements to New Zealand from Japan.

"We had hoped to encourage school groups to rebook, but that is looking increasingly difficult given developments over the weekend," George Hickton says.

In 2008, New Zealand hosted around 8000 secondary school students during the Japanese high season for educational visits, which runs from June to August.

China has now confirmed cases of Influenza A (H1N1) and we know this is having a knock-on effect on outbound travel to all countries, says George Hickton.

So far, agents have reported several hundred cancellations and postponements from China to New Zealand. Influenza A (H1N1) has been cited as one of the reasons for these cancellations.

Thailand and India have reported around 200 cancellations and postponements so far.

"This is extremely unfortunate for New Zealand as the situation here has stabilised and all nine original cases of Influenza A (H1N1) have now been treated and have fully recovered," says George Hickton.

The Ministry of Health yesterday confirmed that there were no new cases of Influenza A (H1N1) infection in New Zealand.

The cumulative total of known past infections remains at nine, with all cases fully recovered. The cumulative total of probable cases remains at 10, with all cases fully recovered, the Ministry of Health said in a statement.

Tourism New Zealand is monitoring the situation through its offshore offices around the world. Other markets are reporting low, or little, impact on numbers.

"Tourism New Zealand and New Zealand Government agencies have been in constant contact with offshore operators and Government departments to reassure them about travel to New Zealand and we will continue to do that.

"Unfortunately, as Influenza A spreads around the world people are becoming more concerned about travelling abroad. We have to accept that New Zealand arrivals, particularly from Japan and China, are going to suffer as a result of that," says George Hickton.
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