The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) called for the travel industry not to stigmatize tourists from China and Asia because of the coronavirus outbreak.

"The panic, seen as a way of containing the coronavirus, could run the risk of stigmatizing one of the world's biggest tourist groups and may cause long-term harm," the group said in a statement.

"The coronavirus will not be solved by singling out individuals or groups from any country, such as China or those in other parts of Asia," CEO Gloria Guevara said in a statement. "While some of this misguided action may be well-meaning, and it is clearly important the travel and tourism sector plays its part to contain the spread of the coronavirus, this will not be achieved by alienating the world's biggest tourist group."

Guevara has firsthand experience dealing with the aftermath of a virus outbreak on tourism: During her term as Mexican Tourism Minister, the 2009 H1N1 influenza outbreak caused a number of fatalities and had a significant impact on Mexico's economy.

WTTC statistics show Chinese outbound travel and tourism spending has grown sevenfold in the past 10 years, with an annual growth of 21.7%, and now accounts for 16% of total global tourism spending.

"There is no doubt that travel and tourism to and from China bring huge cultural and economic benefits to the world," she said.

As far as future outlook, the WTTC said that based on findings from its recent research, the average recovery time for visitor numbers to a destination after a disease outbreak is 19.4 months

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