By Afshin Majlesi

Virus worries forces cancelation of travel fairs

February 28, 2020 - 18:3

TEHRAN – Dozens of travel fairs and conferences have so far been postponed worldwide due to concerns about the coronavirus outbreak, disrupting deals worth billions of dollars.

Iran has canceled its participation in the 27th Moscow International Travel & Tourism Exhibition (MITT), which is scheduled for March 17-19, due to coronavirus-related concerns.

The B2B meeting between Iranian travel agencies and Russian counterparts that were supposed to take place on the sidelines of MITT has been rescheduled to May. And more importantly, the Islamic Republic was intending to visa-free travelers between the two neighbors.

Iranian tourism minister Ali-Asghar Mounesan announced earlier this month that the country would follow up on the issue of visa-free travel for mutual tourist groups with Russia during the exhibit.

Tehran was considering allowing Russian tourists to visa-free entry into the country to boost tourism after it granted the same privilege for some other nationals including Chinese and Omani passport holders, Mounesan said.

Moreover, Iran’s participation in the upcoming ITB travel and tourism trade show in Berlin is up in the air.

Although most of the preliminary work for Iran’s participation has been done and considering the cancelation of outbound flights from Iran, it is probable that some of the participants would fail to make it to the fair in time, according to Khashayar Nikzadfar, who is in charge of Iran’s pavilion at ITB.

On one hand, six exhibitors from China have so far annulled their participation in ITB fair, at the time of writing, on the other German tour operator Schauinsland-Reisen has canceled its traditionally packed-out ITB party, scheduled for Friday, March 6, in view of the situation.

Officials are currently discussing whether the International Tourism Fair (ITB), which is scheduled to be held on March 4, should be canceled. A spokeswoman for the federal health ministry has said it was up to local authorities to decide whether to call off the event.

Amongst other canceled or rescheduled tourism-related events are:

- Singapore Airshow, Feb. 11-16: The aviation leadership summit scheduled on the eve of the event was canceled. The show itself will go ahead as planned but on a smaller scale.

-National Association of Travel Agents Singapore (NATAS) travel fair 2020, Feb. 21-23: Moved to May because exhibitors were concerned about the turnout at the fair.

-Food & Hotel Asia in Singapore, March 3-6: Organizers of the biennial trade show have postponed its first leg to July. The event attracted more than 80,000 attendees when it was last held in 2018.

The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) estimated on Thursday that the coronavirus outbreak will cost world tourism at least $22 billion.

More than 83,000 people in at least 53 countries have been infected till Friday. Iran’s coronavirus death toll rises to 34 at the time of writing on February 28. The Islamic Republic has the highest number of deaths from coronavirus (COVID-19) outside China, where the virus emerged in late 2019.