THE NOVEL CORONAVIRUS (2019-nCoV) outbreak is likely to have a short-term impact on the country’s tourism sector, according to economic managers.

This as health officials on Thursday reported the first case of the new coronavirus in the Philippines.

“I think it’s likely to just have a short-term impact because given the measures being done to minimize the (spread of the coronavirus)… It shouldn’t take long for that to have an effect on the economy,” Socioeconomic Planning Ernesto M. Pernia said when asked about the outbreak’s potential impact on tourism during a press conference on Thursday evening.

To curb the spread of the virus that has now killed 170, China announced a ban on outbound organized tour groups.

According to data from the Department of Tourism (DoT), China was the second-highest source of foreign tourists during the January-November period last year, accounting for around 22% of the 7.5 million visitors in the Philippines.

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III, however, said it is still too early to come up with projections on the decline in tourism revenues due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Mr. Pernia pointed out there may be savings on foreign exchange, as some Filipinos may choose to forego overseas travel.

“Maybe to some extent we will be saving on foreign exchange since the travel of Filipinos, to China for example, will be limited, will be curtailed and also to other Asian countries. I think Filipinos will be more careful in going to these countries so there will be, they won’t be spending foreign exchange,” he said.

In a report on Thursday, Moody’s said several Asian-Pacific economies are “vulnerable to a decline in tourism from China.”

“The outbreak will take a toll on tourism sectors elsewhere in the region, and places outside the region that receive tourists from China… The fear of contagion could dampen consumer demand and affect tourism, travel, trade, and services in Hong Kong, Macao, Thailand, Japan, Vietnam and Singapore, which have been the top destinations of Chinese tourists in recent years,” Moody’s said.

“We expect the risk of potential negative spillovers to domestic tourism in neighboring countries to be higher than during SARS because Chinese nationals now make up the largest share of visitors to other Asia-Pacific economies,” it added.

S&P Global Ratings, on the other hand, noted that the coronavirus outbreak is “likely to hit travel and consumption activities.”

“In a scenario of widespread infection, it could materially weaken economic growth and fiscal positions of governments in Asia,” S&P said in a report. — Beatrice M. Laforga