This study examines how experience of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) influences the impact of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on international tourism demand for four Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) economies, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, and New Zealand, over the 1 January–30 April 2020 period. To proceed, panel regression models are first applied with a time-lag effect to estimate the general effects of COVID-19 on daily tourist arrivals. In turn, the data set is decomposed into two nation groups and fixed effects models are employed for addressing the comparison of the pandemic-tourism relationship between economies with and without experiences of the SARS epidemic. Specifically, Taiwan and Hong Kong are grouped as economies with SARS experiences, while Thailand and New Zealand are grouped as countries without experiences of SARS. The estimation result indicates that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has a significant negative impact on tourism demand, in which a 1% COVID-19 case increase causes a 0.075% decline in tourist arrivals, which is a decline of approximately 110 arrivals for every additional person infected by the coronavirus. The negative impact of COVID-19 on tourist arrivals for Thailand and New Zealand is found much stronger than for Taiwan and Hong Kong. In particular, the number of tourist arrivals to Taiwan and Hong Kong decreased by 0.034% in response to a 1% increase in COVID-19 confirmed cases, while in Thailand and New Zealand, a 1% national confirmed cases increase caused a 0.103% reduction in tourism demand. Moreover, the effect of the number of domestic cases on international tourism is found lower than the effect caused by global COVID-19 mortality for the economies with SARS experiences. In contrast, tourist arrivals are majorly affected by the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Thailand and New Zealand. Finally, travel restriction in all cases is found to be the most influencing factor for the number of tourist arrivals. Besides contributing to the existing literature focusing on the knowledge regarding the nexus between tourism and COVID-19, the paper’s findings also highlight the importance of risk perception and the need of transmission prevention and control of the epidemic for the tourism sector.
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