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Tea Leaves

What virus fears can teach Asia's tourism industry

Collapse in visitor demand highlights over-reliance on Chinese visitors

Travelers wear masks at an airport in Bangkok in January. The Thai government is bracing for the impact of mass cancellations of Chinese group tours. (Photo by Akira Kodaka)

Not so long ago, the travel industry's biggest emerging problem was overtourism, especially in top vacation hot spots in Southeast Asia and Europe, where local resentment of visitor hordes was approaching boiling point.

Living in Thailand, a favored destination for Chinese tourists, I have witnessed an intensifying backlash against low-cost, or "zero dollar," tourism and growing outcry over environmental degradation of top nature spots. There are signs in Mandarin at various tourist sites advising visitors of appropriate etiquette.

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