Tourism

Coronavirus: Tourism pioneer becomes first Australian casualty as another travel ban imposed

A man described as a tourism pioneer who was on board Diamond Princess has become the first Australian to die of coronavirus, as the government imposes travel sanctions on Iran and one of the world’s largest travel trade shows cancels.

See also Virtuoso CEO cancels Aussie trip amid coronavirus concerns as travel ban extended 

James Kwan, a 78-year-old man from Perth was travelling on the ship with his 79-year-old wife when the outbreak began. The couple were sent to Howard Springs in the Northern Territory where Australian evacuees were sent before arriving back in Perth and put into isolation in Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.

The man’s wife issued a statement on his death, according to ABC News:

“My husband passed away peacefully knowing that his family loved him,” she said.

The Australian Tourism Export Council released a statement describing Kwan as “true pioneer of Asian inbound tourism to Australia”. According to the council, Kwan founded Wel-Travel in 1988, paving the way in developing important inbound tourism markets including Malaysia, Singapore, China and India and Indonesia.

“The Kwan family made a significant contribution to WA’s economy before expanding their inbound travel business nationally,” the statement read.

Prior to founding Wel-Travel, Kwan was the Singapore based director of the Hong Kong Tourism Association (HKTA) where he was instrumental in establishing the National Association of Travel Agents Singapore (NATAS) Trade Fair in Singapore which continues to be a success 30 years on.

He was also a founding member of the Western Australian Tour Operators Association (WAITO), which later merged into the Inbound Tourism Operators Association, which was subsequently renamed as ATEC.

He served on the ATEC National Board from 2001 – 2005 and was also a founding member of the ATEC’s Asian Tourism Advisory Panel (now Market Advisory Panel).

Kwan’s death comes as the Australian government announced another travel ban on foreign nationals coming from Iran.

Iran has officially recorded 388 cases of the disease and 34 deaths, which would make it tied with Italy for the highest death rate outside of China. However, the BBC reported that sources from Iran’s health system said the death toll could be as high as 210.

“There is likely at this stage a high level of undetected cases, and therefore those cases won’t be intercepted or identified on departure from Iran,” Greg Hunt, federal health minister told ABC News.

Over the weekend, a Gold Coast beautician who recently returned from Iran tested positive for coronavirus, as well as another woman who flew into Sydney from Iran with Qatar Airways on February 23. Authorities are trying to contact anyone who was in contact with both women over the past two weeks.

Meanwhile, Europe is starting to feel the effects of the virus, as cases in Italy spiked by 50 per cent in 24 hours, taking the number of cases from 1128 to 1694 including 34, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. 

Workers at the Louvre refused to open the gallery’s doors on Sunday, over fears visitors could infect staff, as France’s infection rate climbs over 100.

See also: Cruise wholesaler to close amid coronavirus uncertainty

“The Louvre is a confined space which welcomes more than 5000 people a day,” union leader Christian Galani told AFP.

“There is real concern on the part of staff.”

In Germany, organisers of one of the world’s most popular travel trade conventions, ITB Berlin have announced it will not take place this year. A post on the event’s website said the decision was based on advice from the federal ministry of health and the federal ministry of economics due to the rapid spread of the virus.

“This evening at 1827 hrs, the responsible health authority of the district of Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf in Berlin imposed significantly tighter restrictions on holding the event,” the post read.

“Among its requirements, the authority stipulated that each participant would need to prove to Messe Berlin that they were not from a designated risk area or had not been in contact with a person or persons from a risk area. It is not possible for Messe Berlin to satisfy these requirements overall.”

Dr. Christian Göke, CEO of Messe Berlin GmbH, said the company takes the health and safety of its visitors, exhibitors and employees very seriously.

“With more than 10,000 exhibitors from over 180 countries ITB Berlin is extremely important for the world’s tourism industry,” Göke said.

“It is with a heavy heart that we must now come to terms with the cancellation of ITB Berlin 2020.”

These updates come as the World Health Organisation (WHO) upgraded its assessment of the risk of global spread to its highest level of alarm.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the organisation, also stressed that fear and misinformation were the biggest challenges to overcome.

More than 80,000 people have been infected by coronavirus, and about 2,800 have died.

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