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Coronavirus blow for tourism

HIT: Ballarat tourism businesses, along with tourism operators across the nation, are expecting a downturn in visitation as a result of the strict coronavirus travel restrictions which currently ban travellers from China.

Michelle Smith, Strict new coronavirus travel bans will impact local tourism operators, The Courier, 4 February 2020

Ballarat tourism operators are expecting a sharp drop in visitor numbers as Chinese tourists face strict new travel bans to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Sovereign Hill, Ballarat Wildlife Park and Creswick Woollen Mills welcome tens of thousands of Chinese visitors every year, but the federal government has banned anyone from mainland China who is not an Australian citizen, permanent resident or their dependents, from entering Australia.

In a statement Sovereign Hill said from Tuesday it would be following a stronger precautionary approach recommended by the federal government for both staff and visitors, including erecting signs urging travellers to follow self-quarantine advice if they have been in China after February 1 or in Hubei province in the last fortnight.

Ballarat’s major tourist attraction will also be contacting school groups and tour groups with the advice that includes self- isolation and monitoring for two weeks for anyone who is in the high risk group.

The impact is also being felt at other popular destinations.

“The Australian tourism industry expects a downturn, so we can expect the same in Ballarat,” said a spokesperson for Ballarat Wildlife Park.

Before the travel ban was announced, Sovereign Hill said they were projecting cancellations of up to 70 per cent of Chinese visitors over the coming months.

Sovereign Hill chief executive Sara Quon said the attraction had invested significantly in attracting overseas visitors, particularly from China, but it was too early to predict long-term impacts.

Alpacas at Creswick Woollen Mills.

Before the coronavirus outbreak, Creswick Woollen Mills welcomed busloads of Chinese tourists to the mill each week to buy products from the showrooms created especially for the Asian tourist market.

The mill is more than half way through a 10-year plan of expanding Chinese tourism, with executive director Boaz Herszfeld visiting China many times to work on bringing groups to Creswick.

Rapidly changing advice on the novel coronavirus epidemic, which the World Health Organisation has declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, has caused confusion for some families and travellers.

The spread of the virus has forced an extension of self-isolation advice for anyone who has been in mainland China, in addition to the banning of non-residents arriving from China.

Previous advice related to people who had visited Wuhan City and the Hubei Province but the extension now covers all of mainland China. Under the new advice, anyone who was in mainland China on or after February 1, when the risk of human to human transmission across many provinces of mainland China was identified to have significantly increased, must self isolate for 14 days.

And if a person who was in mainland china on or after February 1 but is now in Australia begins to feel unwell and develop shortness of breath, a cough or respiratory illness during the 14 days after they were last in mainland China, they must call ahead to a GP or emergency department and mention their travel before they seek medical attention.
In addition to the ban on non-citizens and permanent residents coming back in to Australia, the government has recommended Australians should not travel to China.

Federation University, which has about 200 Chinese students, has contacted them to advise of the new isolation measures ahead of the new university year, and will not approve any university-related travel in to China.

“This is a particularly challenging time for Chinese staff and students and we will continue to support them as this situation evolves,” they wrote.

“The safety of our students, staff and community is always our number one priority. Our university response team is actively and closely monitoring events as the situation continues to evolve rapidly around the world.”

Read the Department of Health and Human Service’s latest coronavirus update here.


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