June 12, 2015 13:16
Consumption is nosediving particularly in the restaurant and tourism sectors as people stay away from crowded places to protect themselves from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome.
One credit card firm saw transactions in the first week of June fall 9.2 percent compared to the same period last month. Amusement and water parks were hit hardest, with credit card settlements decreasing by 54 percent and 56 percent.
"Despite the hot weather in June, transactions at water parks fell from May, indicating how much the MERS scare is making a dent," a spokesman said.
Concerns about the disease also are also hurting the health industry, with credit card transactions at hospitals falling 19.2 percent over the period. Instead, people are turning to pharmacies, where transactions were up eight percent.
According to the Ministry of Strategy and Finance, credit card transactions in department stores and supermarkets fell 25 percent and 7.2 percent in the first week of June compared to the first two weeks of May, before the outbreak hit the country.
Moviegoers also dwindled to barely more than half (54.9 percent) of the previous year's, and the number of museum visitors plunged 81.5 percent.
Credit card payments for restaurant bills shrank 12.3 percent in the first week of June compared to the same period a month ago, and the number of foreigners who canceled trips to Korea reached over 54,000 between May 20 and early this month.
Global investment bank Morgan Stanley predicts that even if the outbreak is contained within a month and consumer sentiment rebounds immediately, sales of the retail and restaurant sectors will likely shrink 10 percent and 15 percent in June, and the tourism industry will see a 20 percent drop in sales until July.
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