Russian travel companies suffer losses
The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) virus, which has shocked the whole world, has caused considerable financial damage to the tourist business of Russia’s Primorye region. Travel-agency managers are not yet ready to reveal the amount of their losses, although they still advertise trips to the countries of Southeast Asia. The situation is becoming rather interesting: On the one hand, travel agencies refuse to arrange trips to China while, on the other hand, statistics testify to an increase in the number of trips there.
The manager of the Raiteks travel agency says that "People who were going to travel to China to buy things there are refraining from making trips to that country. For example, five people out of 10 refused to go there on Monday on account of the possibility of catching SARS there."
People are beginning to be afraid and are asking questions about preventive measures, although it is known that the risk of catching the virus in China's northern provinces (to which Primorye residents travel most often) is minimal. However, statistics from the Committee for Tourism of the Primorye regional administration testify to an increase of trips to China: In 2002, 65,719 Primorye residents traveled to China (and 13,736 Chinese nationals visited the Primorye region). This year, during the period of January-March, 95,196 Russian citizens traveled to China (while 17,171 Chinese visited Russia over the same period of time). Mikhail Lapin, a member of the Committee, said that such large figures are basically accounted for by shuttle traders.
SARS is the most dangerous disease known to date, and it has Ebola fever and AIDS into the background. This respiratory ailment is 100 percent contagious, and doctors have not yet found a way to cure it. SARS symptoms can be seen 10 days after the virus enters into a human body. Therefore, a person may infect other people without knowing it. Ten days further on, a patient will show all the symptoms of flu: a high temperature, weakness and so on. The victim may die within five or six days. A doctor's mask is considered to be the only thing that can of protect people from catching the SARS virus.
Alexander Alexeyev, the press service manager of Vladivostok Avia Airlines, said the airline has outfitted its planes with masks. This measure is the most efficient and the cheapest one so far. Various border services have been instructed about the issue as well.
Svetlana Cherepanova Zolotoy Rog
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov