COVID-19 – First Response: An Open Letter from Philippe Richard, February 2020

Available in Italian, French, and Spanish 

Firstly, I must stress that safety of any and all travelers entrusted to us by our partners are our highest priority. Of our core values, “Caring” is the first, and extends from the 436 workers in our offices to the travelers we look after and local suppliers we work with in our destinations.

I’m certain you are aware of the news coverage of Wuhan’s Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19), and I also empathize with concerns about travel in Asia. Based in France myself (but a frequent traveler to Southeast Asia), I see the reports on a daily basis, and can understand why concerns would arise. This is indeed a worrying situation for the people of Wuhan, and also to China, and our thoughts are with them.

However, I’d like to explain the situation in our destinations in statistics, to help provide an understanding of Southeast Asia. The recorded cases by WHO here break down as:

I’d also like to stress that since the quarantine of the city of Wuhan, and with every nation in the world now on alert, the virus spread outside China has grown at a very slow and controlled rate.

The situation reminds me vividly of 2002-03, when we faced the SARS outbreak which also originated from China, and also transmitted from animals to humans and then between people. Easia Travel experienced this time and I can now make some encouraging comparisons between that situation and today:

  • In this situation, the Chinese authorities have reacted remarkably effectively & quickly, quarantining an entire city. Even if the statistics show us this virus has spread faster than previous cases, so far China have managed to contain the spread within its borders. Therefore, the number of cases outside China has spread at a much slower rate than within China
  • The local authorities in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand have learnt valuable lessons in the years since SARS. They have been very reactive and have introduced advanced screening processes. Many countries and airlines have postponed international flights between China and the rest of the world.
  • We have also seen swift and decisive control & precaution methods in France (source FR / EN), UK (source) and Vietnam (source), who have all acted quickly when presented with potential outbreak situations
  • WHO has implemented a worldwide coordination of the crisis that is cautious and efficient. The collaboration between all countries has been collective and coordinated, contrary to 2002-03 when it took more than 2 months to collaborate effectively
  • In 2003, Easia Travel experienced cancellation of 80% of business in the year due to SARS, with cancellations almost immediately. This year, we are seeing that travelers are not canceling their planned trips, but are waiting to understand the evolution of the situation

China began their quarantine process on 24th January 2020. According to medical experts, the incubation period of the disease is up to 15 days. Therefore, I believe we are soon entering the “truth period” when we will see how effectively we have managed to control this virus. Given all the facts and statistics above, I personally believe we are on the right track to solve this issue very soon.

To ground my claims in reality, I’d also like to share a video made by Viet Nam News network, who interviewed tourists on the street for their opinion on the situation on the ground, and emphasizes how caution is helping control potential outbreaks.

Credit: Viet Nam News

As I mentioned at the start of this letter, “Caring” is one of our most important core values. In this difficult time we have concerns not just for our travelers and staff, but for our suppliers on the ground – the guides, the restaurants & the hotels who, without travelers, face a concerning future with their livelihood tested. Without such amazing local people and companies, there is no travel industry.

Therefore, we make it our mission to encourage travelers to be safe, but to not resist travel to Southeast Asia when all the statistics indicate the situation outside China is under control. We will pledge to continue to report the reality of the situation in our destinations, and you can follow our regular reports and updates on our blog.

If you have any questions regarding travel, my team and I will be happy to help so please don’t hesitate to reach out to us

With my warmest regards,

Philippe Richard Decornet
Co-Founder, Co-Owner – Easia Travel


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