21 Feb 2020

Travel ban and local fears starving Chinese restaurants of trade

12:06 pm on 21 February 2020

Some Chinese restaurants are crying out for customers following the coronavirus travel ban on visitors from China.

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Chinese restaurants are struggling because of the coronavirus. Photo: 123RF

The travel ban has been in force since 3 February and local diners are becoming more cautious and avoiding Chinese food.

Dragon Restaurant is one of many restaurants across the country begging people to come back to eat their food.

Store manager Shuping Chen said they had been losing about $5000 per week in what should be peak season. She had to quickly figure out ways to attract people, including offering discounts for corporate customers and giving out hand sanitiser.

"Come back to our Chinese restaurant, we have good food and good service, we have no problem," she said. "We just don't want them to be scared of the Chinese food or people."

Her plea echoed many of the other worried Chinese restaurant owners feeling the effect of the coronavirus outbreak.

Another restaurant owner said their business revenue was down by at least 50 percent.

Vivian Wong owns the popular Christchurch Chinese restaurant - Madam Kwong. She said the number of customers had halved.

"You don't have the tour bases coming, walk-in Chinese tourist customers or local people hosting the tourists."

She believed "the local people, especially Chinese and European customers dine less at Chinese restaurants," to avoid being around where Chinese communities congregate because "there is a risk of contracting the virus".

She said New Zealand's tourism industry heavily relied on the tourism community and people needed to better inform themselves about the virus and realise there were still no confirmed cases here.

Both racism and ignorance was partly to blame for local people staying away, she said.

The Dragon Boat in Auckland specialises in fresh seafood - a hit with Chinese travellers who keep the business afloat. But manager Ricky Wang said she now had to rely on local support.

"Customers in NZ or Auckland I hope they are not afraid ... we welcome all customers," she said.

So if you are tossing up what to buy for lunch or dinner why not consider this advice from Mike Egan from the Restaurant Association.

"A public space like a Chinese restaurant is the same as a european restaurant a mall or supermarket, you are going to have the same contact with people. It's really unfair. No one in New Zealand has caught it [coronavirus]."

He said supporting your local Chinese restaurant was the best thing you could do for them right now.

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