Now is the time when furniture executives often travel to China to inspect their products coming to the High Point Market in the spring. But the outbreak of the coronavirus is blocking travel there.
The World Health Organization says 99 percent of the confirmed cases of the virus have been in China.
Tom Conley is president and CEO of the High Point Market Authority. He says the outbreak has already disrupted foreign furniture manufacturing, and he worries about the threat to the market if the coronavirus starts to spread to other countries.
“Then people, regardless of where they’re from, will be hesitant to gather in large crowds,” he says. “So all trade shows, conventions, meetings will be subject to decreased attendance and ours is certainly one of them.”
Conley says China ranks number two in terms of the number of international visitors to the market.
A significant decline in tourism could have a ripple effect in the local economy. The market is estimated to have an economic impact of more than $6 billion within a 75-mile radius of the heart of High Point, according to a study released last year.
The market is unusually late this year, officially kicking off on April 25, which gives High Point some time as public health researchers work to contain the virus.
Conley says the market has a representative in China to recruit vendors, and he's concerned for their safety and the safety of their family.
The Associated Press reports that this should have been a good year for global tourism, with trade tensions gradually easing, certain economies growing, and banner events like the Summer Olympics taking place in Tokyo.
But the viral outbreak has thrown the travel industry into chaos, threatening billions in losses and keeping millions of would-be travelers at home. Thirty airlines have suspended service to China. Cruise lines have canceled more than a dozen Chinese cruises. And hotel rooms in China are largely empty.
Before the outbreak, the United Nations World Tourism Organization was forecasting growth of 3-4 percent in global tourism this year, up from 1.5 billion tourist arrivals in 2019.
Copyright 2020 WFDD. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. AP contributed to this report.