VOA journalist He Yi reported from Hong Kong on April 19: SARS is striking a heavy blow on tourism in China. Some tourism officials in China even claimed that tourism is on the verge of collapse.

SARS is running rampant in China, and many countries have issued travel warnings against going to China. Some countries even refuse to accept tourists coming from China. The National Tourism Bureau in China recently announced that travel abroad to Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand has been temporarily halted. An officer from the Travel Bureau in Guangdong Province said, "There is nothing to expect. No one comes here to visit. The impact of SARS has spread to everywhere, not just Beijing and Guangzhou."

The Kanghui Travel Agency, with over 5,000 employees and many branch offices in various places in China, is one of the largest travel agencies in China. The China Economic Times cited the general manager of Kanghui Travel Agency, Li Jilie, "Tourists who have scheduled to come to China to visit in May have all cancelled their trips. Most of those who plan to come in June or July have cancelled their trip as well."

Other reports say that under the influence of SARS, tours around the country by Chinese citizens have also been affected to a certain degree.

A Beijing citizen who often goes out to travel recently indicated that she wouldn't dare to travel around. She said, "Many workplaces here often organize their employees to go on group tours to various places in China. We have planed to go to Shanxi Province this year, and it's now time to sign up for the tour. There are 37 employees in my department; however, none of them has indicated they would go because Shanxi has also been severely affected by SARS."

In response to reduced tourist demand, many travel agencies in China are now cutting salaries and laying off employees, a phenomenon that has never occurred in the past 10 years. Kanghui Travel Agency said, "Contract workers and interns will be laid off. Except for managers and necessary salespeople, all other employees will be on paid vacation. For now the vacation is set to be one month." For other travel agencies, even if they do not lay off workers at this moment, they still need to keep costs down. Some travel agencies in Zhejiang Province have already started pay cuts up to 30%.