Almost a third (31%) of UK consumers will consider avoiding foreign travel if the coronavirus outbreak continues, new research indicates.
Consultancy firm Retail Economics, which commissioned the poll of more than 2,000 people, calculated that this could result in £17 billion of holiday spending being put on hold.
It warned that overseas city break destinations and popular resorts are likely to suffer the most from UK travellers staying away.
This could lead to a rise in people taking their holidays within the UK, the researchers suggested.
Consumers believe the coronavirus presents a high threat to health in the UK
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is advising against all but essential travel to mainland China.
British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have suspended their flights to the area, while travel firm Trailfinders admitted it has “seen an impact on bookings to the East”.
Other actions which some respondents to the survey said they will take if the coronavirus persists include avoiding public transport (22%), avoiding major shopping areas (16%) and avoiding their workplace (7%).
Nearly a quarter (23%) of consumers believe the virus presents a high threat to health in the UK, while 35% think it is a moderate threat and 42% see it as a low threat.
Retail Economics chief executive Richard Lim said: “If the virus persists, consumers are likely to cut back in three main areas: holidays and travel, eating out and using public transport.
“Consumers will shift this spending elsewhere as they substitute what they would have spent abroad to other areas of the economy.
“Coronavirus adds to an already fragile backdrop for consumer confidence.
“People are worried about Brexit, a weaker outlook for the economy, lack of savings and how to shop sustainably.”