Economist predicts oil, fishing and tourism industries will feel impacts from coronavirus outbreak

Published: Feb. 7, 2020 at 7:30 AM AKST
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A local economist predicts that multiple industries in Alaska will feel the impacts of the novel coronavirus from Wuhan China if they haven’t felt it already.

Kevin Berry, an assistant professor of economics with University of Alaska Anchorage’s Institute of Social and Economic Research, focuses on research on how people respond to environmental risk.

According to Berry, the oil, fishing, tourism and cargo industries may be especially susceptible to the effects of the outbreak.

“These things will probably slow down the economy because, within China, people are being told to stay inside, not move around,” he said. “So we can expect the economy as a whole to slow down because of this. There’s going to be an impact on things like oil.”

Berry said oil prices have gone down, but it’s hard to say how much is due to the outbreak.

Local businesses have already begun to feel the impact since travel restrictions have been in effect.

Alaska Skylar Travel, a tour operations company based in Alaska that caters to travelers speaking Mandarin, have reported hundreds of cancelations from travelers either unable to make it to Alaska or too afraid.

"It's one thing after another," Jin Chen said, the chief operating officer of the company. "There was the group bans, then the massive flight cancelations and then extra border screenings."

Berry also predicts there to be an impact on the fishing industry if the outbreak persists.

“Asia is a large purchaser of seafood,” Berry said. “Sometimes, outbreaks are used as an excuse for a country to create trade barriers and those trade barriers can impact Alaskan salmon or Alaskan seafood in general. It can also impact the willingness and ability of companies to ship to China.”

Berry emphasized that even though China is a big country, it's not the only one doing business with the state. He said the level of impact depends on how long the outbreak persists.