Coronavirus fears have left tourist hotspots empty worldwide

The Japanese city of Nara, a 45-minute train journey from Kyoto, has an unusual calling card: approximately 1,000 free-roaming deer that greet tourists (and ask for treats) with a polite bow.

By Natasha Frost | Travel and lifestyle reporter

But with Covid-19 on travelers’ minds, their benefactors are suddenly absent, leaving the animals with no alternative but to scavenge for food, according to Japanese reports.

All over the world, it’s the same story: Tourists scared off by the threat of the new coronavirus have cancelled or postponed their trips. Ordinarily over-trafficked destinations are bereft of visitors—even in countries barely affected by the crisis, such as Egypt, which has had less than two dozen cases of the virus.

Without a steady stream of visitors from China, the European Union’s tourism industry is facing a deficit of around €1 billion ($1.1 billion) a month, Thierry Breton, the EU’s internal market commissioner, told the Wall Street Journal this week.

The tourism sector in Italy, where Covid-19 cases have soared of late, has been profoundly affected by the outbreak: Rome’s piazzas are empty, while Venice’s iconic Bridge of Sighs and other hard-to-photograph spots are suddenly wide open for shooting. If the situation continues, the Confturismo-Confcommercio tourist lobby estimates losses of €7.4 billion ($12.5 billion) between March and the end of May. In Venice, the Carnival closed two days early last month, on the say-so of the regional president, while the architecture biennale has been postponed from May to August.

For intrepid tourists and locals, this is in some ways a perfect time to enjoy these incredible destinations at their most unspoilt. But for the millions who depend on the income that international visitors bring, it’s a disaster—and one that is unlikely to let up any time soon.

Natasha Frost is a reporter at Quartz. She grew up in Singapore and New Zealand, attended the University of Oxford, and received a MS in journalism from Columbia University. Formerly of the BBC and Radio New Zealand, her work has appeared in Vice, Atlas Obscura, The Independent, Extra Crispy, and HISTORY, among other global publications. alert-info

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