press enter to search

Visitors vanish from Asia's most visited sites

Suy SE

Agence France-Presse

Siem Reap, Cambodia  /  Tue, March 10, 2020  /  02:05 pm
  • A general view shows a pier in Denpasar on Indonesia's resort island of Bali on March 8, 2020, from which fast boats travel to Nusa Penida island.

    A general view shows a pier in Denpasar on Indonesia's resort island of Bali on March 8, 2020, from which fast boats travel to Nusa Penida island. OF AFP/Sonny Tumbelaka

    A general view shows a pier in Denpasar on Indonesia's resort island of Bali on March 8, 2020, from which fast boats travel to Nusa Penida island.

  • This combination photo created on March 6, 2020 shows devotees offering prayers at Erawan shrine in Bangkok on July 9, 2019 (top) and on March 6, 2020.

    This combination photo created on March 6, 2020 shows devotees offering prayers at Erawan shrine in Bangkok on July 9, 2019 (top) and on March 6, 2020.
OF AFP/Mladen Antonov, Jewel Samad

    This combination photo created on March 6, 2020 shows devotees offering prayers at Erawan shrine in Bangkok on July 9, 2019 (top) and on March 6, 2020.

  • This combination photo created on March 8, 2020 shows Chinese tourists arriving from Nusa Penida in Denpasar on Indonesia's resort island of Bali on January 26, 2020 (top) and a general view of the same pier on March 8, 2020.

    This combination photo created on March 8, 2020 shows Chinese tourists arriving from Nusa Penida in Denpasar on Indonesia's resort island of Bali on January 26, 2020 (top) and a general view of the same pier on March 8, 2020. OF AFP/Sonny Tumbelaka

    This combination photo created on March 8, 2020 shows Chinese tourists arriving from Nusa Penida in Denpasar on Indonesia's resort island of Bali on January 26, 2020 (top) and a general view of the same pier on March 8, 2020.

  • This combination photo created on March 6, 2020 shows visitors at the Merlion park in Singapore on August 13, 2019 (top) and on March 6, 2020.

    This combination photo created on March 6, 2020 shows visitors at the Merlion park in Singapore on August 13, 2019 (top) and on March 6, 2020. OF AFP/Roslan Rahman, Catherine Lai

    This combination photo created on March 6, 2020 shows visitors at the Merlion park in Singapore on August 13, 2019 (top) and on March 6, 2020.

  • This combination photo created on March 6, 2020 shows pedestrians crossing a street outside the Gyeongbokgung palace in Seoul on May 3, 2017 (top) and on March 6, 2020.

    This combination photo created on March 6, 2020 shows pedestrians crossing a street outside the Gyeongbokgung palace in Seoul on May 3, 2017 (top) and on March 6, 2020.
OF AFP/Ed Jones

    This combination photo created on March 6, 2020 shows pedestrians crossing a street outside the Gyeongbokgung palace in Seoul on May 3, 2017 (top) and on March 6, 2020.

  • This combination photo created on March 9, 2020 shows people visiting Sensoji temple in Tokyo's Asakusa district on April 16, 2019 (top) and on March 9, 2020.

    This combination photo created on March 9, 2020 shows people visiting Sensoji temple in Tokyo's Asakusa district on April 16, 2019 (top) and on March 9, 2020. OF AFP/Charly Triballeau

    This combination photo created on March 9, 2020 shows people visiting Sensoji temple in Tokyo's Asakusa district on April 16, 2019 (top) and on March 9, 2020.

  • This combination photo created on March 5, 2020 shows tourists visiting Angkor Wat temple in Siem Reap province on March 16, 2019 (top) and on March 5, 2020.

    This combination photo created on March 5, 2020 shows tourists visiting Angkor Wat temple in Siem Reap province on March 16, 2019 (top) and on March 5, 2020.
OF AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy

    This combination photo created on March 5, 2020 shows tourists visiting Angkor Wat temple in Siem Reap province on March 16, 2019 (top) and on March 5, 2020.

  • This combination photo created on March 8, 2020 shows tourists and locals enjoying drinks and food on tables set up on the pavement in the old quarter of Hanoi on November 24, 2015 (top) and people drinking in the same area in Hanoi on March 7, 2020.

    This combination photo created on March 8, 2020 shows tourists and locals enjoying drinks and food on tables set up on the pavement in the old quarter of Hanoi on November 24, 2015 (top) and people drinking in the same area in Hanoi on March 7, 2020.
OF AFP/Manan Vatsyayana, Hoang Dinh Nam

    This combination photo created on March 8, 2020 shows tourists and locals enjoying drinks and food on tables set up on the pavement in the old quarter of Hanoi on November 24, 2015 (top) and people drinking in the same area in Hanoi on March 7, 2020.

  • This combination photo created on March 8, 2020 shows people visiting the promenade on the Bund along the Huangpu River during the May Day holiday in Shanghai on May 1, 2019 (top) and people wearing facemasks, amid concerns of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, along the Bund in Shanghai on March 8, 2020.

    This combination photo created on March 8, 2020 shows people visiting the promenade on the Bund along the Huangpu River during the May Day holiday in Shanghai on May 1, 2019 (top) and people wearing facemasks, amid concerns of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, along the Bund in Shanghai on March 8, 2020.
OF AFP/Hector Retamal

    This combination photo created on March 8, 2020 shows people visiting the promenade on the Bund along the Huangpu River during the May Day holiday in Shanghai on May 1, 2019 (top) and people wearing facemasks, amid concerns of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, along the Bund in Shanghai on March 8, 2020.

  • This combination photo created on March 8, 2020 shows tourists standing before a Chinese paramilitary policeman (C) in front of a portrait of late communist leader Mao Zedong at Tiananmen Gate in Beijing on September 20, 2019 (top) and paramilitary police officers wearing facemasks, amid concerns about the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, at Tiananmen Gate in Beijing on March 6, 2020.

    This combination photo created on March 8, 2020 shows tourists standing before a Chinese paramilitary policeman (C) in front of a portrait of late communist leader Mao Zedong at Tiananmen Gate in Beijing on September 20, 2019 (top) and paramilitary police officers wearing facemasks, amid concerns about the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, at Tiananmen Gate in Beijing on March 6, 2020.
OF AFP/Greg Baker, Noel Celis

    This combination photo created on March 8, 2020 shows tourists standing before a Chinese paramilitary policeman (C) in front of a portrait of late communist leader Mao Zedong at Tiananmen Gate in Beijing on September 20, 2019 (top) and paramilitary police officers wearing facemasks, amid concerns about the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, at Tiananmen Gate in Beijing on March 6, 2020.

  • This combination photo created on March 6, 2020 shows tourists wearing facemasks, amid concerns over the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, as they visit the Grand Palace in Bangkok on January 29, 2020 (top) and on March 2, 2020.

    This combination photo created on March 6, 2020 shows tourists wearing facemasks, amid concerns over the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, as they visit the Grand Palace in Bangkok on January 29, 2020 (top) and on March 2, 2020.
OF AFP/Lillian Suwanrumpha

    This combination photo created on March 6, 2020 shows tourists wearing facemasks, amid concerns over the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, as they visit the Grand Palace in Bangkok on January 29, 2020 (top) and on March 2, 2020.

  • This combination photo created on March 8, 2020 shows tourists walking past a portrait of late communist leader Mao Zedong at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on April 29, 2013 (top) and a general view of the same area in Beijing on March 7, 2020.

    This combination photo created on March 8, 2020 shows tourists walking past a portrait of late communist leader Mao Zedong at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on April 29, 2013 (top) and a general view of the same area in Beijing on March 7, 2020.
OF AFP/Greg Baker, Mark Ralston

    This combination photo created on March 8, 2020 shows tourists walking past a portrait of late communist leader Mao Zedong at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on April 29, 2013 (top) and a general view of the same area in Beijing on March 7, 2020.

  • This combination photo created on March 8, 2020 shows people walking along Sydney Harbour, as the Sydney Opera House is seen in the background, in Sydney on December 30, 2017 (top) and on March 8, 2020.

    This combination photo created on March 8, 2020 shows people walking along Sydney Harbour, as the Sydney Opera House is seen in the background, in Sydney on December 30, 2017 (top) and on March 8, 2020.
OF AFP/Saeed Khan

    This combination photo created on March 8, 2020 shows people walking along Sydney Harbour, as the Sydney Opera House is seen in the background, in Sydney on December 30, 2017 (top) and on March 8, 2020.

  • This combination photo created on March 8, 2020 shows tourists gathering outside the Jakarta History Museum in the Kota Tua area of Jakarta on August 18, 2018 (top) and on March 7, 2020.

    This combination photo created on March 8, 2020 shows tourists gathering outside the Jakarta History Museum in the Kota Tua area of Jakarta on August 18, 2018 (top) and on March 7, 2020.
OF AFP/Adek Berry, Aamir Qureshi

    This combination photo created on March 8, 2020 shows tourists gathering outside the Jakarta History Museum in the Kota Tua area of Jakarta on August 18, 2018 (top) and on March 7, 2020.

  • This combination photo created on March 8, 2020 shows tourists taking pictures at the Peak in Hong Kong on December 26, 2015 (top) and a man wearing a facemask as a precautionary measure against the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus at the same location on March 7, 2020.

    This combination photo created on March 8, 2020 shows tourists taking pictures at the Peak in Hong Kong on December 26, 2015 (top) and a man wearing a facemask as a precautionary measure against the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus at the same location on March 7, 2020.
OF AFP/Dale de la Rey, Vivek Prakash

    This combination photo created on March 8, 2020 shows tourists taking pictures at the Peak in Hong Kong on December 26, 2015 (top) and a man wearing a facemask as a precautionary measure against the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus at the same location on March 7, 2020.

OF

As dawn breaks the unmistakable tapered towers of Angkor Wat emerge from the gloom - but for once there are no tourists jostling on its steps to capture Cambodia's most famous sunrise.

Asia's most Instagrammable sites - temples, promenades, shopping streets, 

museums and mausoleums - are empty, victims of a virus keeping visitors at home.

The usual crowds have evaporated from Sensoji temple in Tokyo to Shanghai's Bund; abandoning the viewpoint at The Peak in Hong Kong and alleviating the pedestrian crush along Sydney Harbour.

Many of the now vanished visitors are from China - a country whose travelers have completely reshaped the tourist economies of Asia over the last few years, yet where only around 10 percent of the population hold passports.

At the Angkor Wat complex, a 12th century marvel of Khmer architecture whose unique crenellations and reliefs lure millions each year, high season has brought the lowest number of tourists on record.

Chinese-speaking Cambodian guide Hor Sophea has not taken any tours since late January. Several weeks on, money is getting tight.

"I've never seen so few tourists," said the 36-year, gesturing at the large moat inside the Angkor Wat complex, whose gangways normally bustle with selfie-taking hordes but are now empty.

"I am very worried... I don't know how much longer we can carry on like this."

The Angkor complex in Siem Reap province attracts the bulk of the kingdom's foreign tourists -- which hit a record 6.6 million in 2019, nearly half of whom were from China.

But the outbreak of the coronavirus has withered Chinese tourist arrivals by 90 percent.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has announced tax breaks for hotels and guesthouses in Siem Reap for four months to offset the losses.

But the discovery on Saturday of the first Cambodian with the infection - in Siem Reap - is likely to cement the stay-at-home mentality among many travelers.

The economic impact is also cascading across Asia.

Read also: Tanah Lot Festival seeks to revive tourism in Bali

In Bali, piers once bristling with arrivals from China are now decorated with moored boats, while in Tokyo the slump in mainland visitors - as well as South Koreans - is hammering restaurants in tourist areas.

At the Tsukiji fish market some restaurants say their take is nearly 70 percent down.

"People stopped coming from China during the Lunar New Year... the streets and shops around here are near-empty," Hiroshi Oya, 61, a cook at a Japanese seafood restaurant told AFP.

"Then South Koreans stopped coming too. The tuna shop next to us decided to close temporarily to avoid running costs," he added.

But for those who are inured to the panic gripping the globe and choose to navigate travel restrictions and the morass of quarantine, a rare privilege of empty sites is their reward.

At the Angkor complex, even Ta Prohm -- the 'Tomb Raider Temple' famed for its embrace by giant tree roots and a Hollywood film franchise -- has only a smattering of visitors each day.

"We're very very lucky. Covid-19 has probably done us a favor," Australian tourist Andres Medenis, who came for sunrise at Angkor Wat, told AFP.

"But the economy is going to be really affected by that... so I feel sorry for the local people." 

Your premium period will expire in 0 day(s)

close x
Subscribe to get unlimited access Get 50% off now