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Coronavirus fears affecting Victoria businesses that rely on tourism
VICTORIA -- Businesses in Victoria that depend on the tourism industry say they are nervously watching the impact of the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19 on their bottom line.
Carol Corke is the manager of a souvenir store on touristy Government Street called Spirit of Victoria. She says she's paying close attention to the impact of the virus.
"I'm not going to say we're not concerned," Corke said. "We definitely are."
Her concern is that tourists who are fearful about the global health emergency that originated in China won't travel as much. Specifically, she worries that in the wake of the cruise ship stricken with the disease and quarantined for weeks in Japan, people will cut back on cruises.
"The cruise ship industry is extremely important to us downtown, I think in every store downtown," Corke said.
The tourism industry shares her concern.
Paul Nursey is the CEO of Destination Greater Victoria. He says his organization is projecting a hit to tourism revenues of two to five per cent this summer, and the visitor centre will be hiring two fewer people for the season.
"We're just prepared for a mild impact," Nursey said. "But we don't want to ignore the fact that there could be one."
Meanwhile, a Chinese restaurant in Saanich says it has already been hit very hard by fears about the virus.
Cecilia Zhong, who works at Fountain Restaurant, says business there has been down 80 per cent in the past two weeks, a decline she attributes to fears – primarily from locals – about the coronavirus.
In Victoria's Chinatown, staff at the Fan Tan Café also say they've noticed a recent slump in sales that they think is due ot worries about coronavirus.
Despite these worries, Nursey says any harm to companies' bottom lines is likely to be short lived.
"We've been through avian flu, economic ups and downs, and the lesson in all of this is the tourism industry is very resistant," he said.