The Coronavirus outbreak, with more than 2100 positive cases and growing, could not have been more ill-timed, given the official commencement of Lunar New Year this past weekend. The annual holiday typically results in an uptick in economic activity, when around three billion travellers crisscross China over the 15-day period that’s known as the world’s largest annual human migration.

With Chinese officials taking drastic measures, including, ordering all travel agencies to suspend sales of domestic and international tours, it could send shockwaves across the globe. On Saturday, the first day of Lunar New Year, Chinese transportation dropped by 28.8% from the same day last year, while railway transportation fell by 41.5%, roads 25%, and passenger flights by 41.6%.

Chinese tourists, the biggest source of outbound travellers worldwide, spent $130 billion overseas in 2018. Chinese tourists are also the world’s biggest spenders on luxury goods, snapping up everything from fancy watches and handbags to Vancouver condos on overseas trips.

Indeed, the local impact on cities such as Vancouver could prove challenging, especially for some luxury condo projects hoping to cash in on a wave of buyers this time of year. Vancouver Developers have been ramping up advertising, promoting a bevy of incentives and discounts for Lunar New Year shoppers.

Chinese New Year is typically viewed as an opportune time to clear existing inventories. However, new home sales could prove disappointing this year with many Chinese buyers grounded. Pre-sales in the city of Vancouver have been on a steady decline since peaking with Chinese capital flight in 2015/2016.

Vancouver new home sales by year
New home sales by year in the city of Vancouver.

China will extend the current Lunar New Year Holiday for an unspecified period of time to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus that has killed at least 56 people in the country and continues to trigger new infections around the globe.


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