Black Swan and Grey Swan

2019 n-CoV and Brexit

by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt FRGS FRAS

The emergence of the 2019 n-CoV a month ago has been a classical Black Swan event – an unforeseen game changer.  The end of the EU membership of the UK can be called a Grey Swan, more likely than a Black Swan event, but still rather unlikely to actually happen

The Coronavirus is creating severe problems and is actually killing people – but this crisis will be over in a few months and more Chinese tourists than ever before will start to travel around the world again after Easter.

Brexit on the other hand will have longer-lasting negative effects and will bring misery for years and years for England and Wales. For the Emerald Island and Scotland, however, it might turn out in the end to be a blessing in disguise.

For Chinese outbound travellers planning to visit the United Kingdom, January 31st, 2020 had very little short-term effect. Not because of the coronavirus, but rather due to the fact that even during the times of EU membership of the UK, the country did not join the Schengen agreement or the Eurozone. Chinese visitors therefore needed also in the past a special visa and had to use the British pound for payments. Considerations of domestic politics had taken precedence over the support of international tourist arrivals.

Based on what we know at the moment about the 2019 n-CoV, the new coronavirus, unfortunately is better equipped to jump from person to person than its close relative, the SARS virus, in 2002/2003. 360 deaths in two months are 360 too many, but in comparison to the 100,000s of non-reported mild infections and the 17,000 confirmed ones, the mortality rate is luckily in the permille region, below the rate of the common flu. The common flu kills every winter 500,000 to 700,000 human beings, and there are – if the comparison is permitted – 700 Chinese dying in traffic accidents in China – EVERY DAY.

Nevertheless, domestic politics seem to have taken precedence again over proportional reactions in many countries around the world. It makes economic sense that airlines stop operating almost empty aircrafts to and from Chinese airports. A policy to completely ban all Chinese nationals from entry into a country, or even barring every non-citizen who visited China in the last two weeks from visiting Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and the United States seems to be a populistic overreaction.

The good news among all the bad news: Given the close resemblance of the yet-unnamed coronavirus with the SARS virus, the reproduction in laboratories has already been successfully achieved several times and existing results from SARS as well as HIV research should speed up the procurement of a cure.

As your humble editor was quoted on  “Of course, it’s too early to say how long it will last right now. But if it’s somewhat similar to SARS, then things could go back to normal around early or mid-April. If we look at what happened in 2003, during SARS, actually most of these trips were just postponed. After the SARS crisis ended, the numbers jumped again. Of course, for a few months, it was really rough for smaller companies but, in the long run, it was okay globally.”

In the meantime, the time is right to use the lull for trainings and product adaptation to prepare for the renewed wave of Chinese visitors going abroad.

With sincere good wishes for all readers of COTRI WEEKLY, Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt and the COTRI WEEKLY team

PS Unfortunately GITF Guangzhou International Tourism Fair and NICE Nepal India China Expo, which both were planned for February, are among the victims of the coronavirus, including the conferences prepared to be held during the events with the help of COTRI. They are, however, like most outbound trips, rather postponed than cancelled.