Has Caribbean Tourism Taken a Hit Since Zika?

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By now, we’ve all heard about the Zika virus. It is mostly spread by an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes are known to be aggressive. While it is a danger to everyone, pregnant women need to especially be careful because Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. This, in turn, can cause major birth defects. Right now there is no vaccine or cure for the virus.

Mosquitoes are often plentiful in warm climates; so many pregnant women have been warned to try to avoid travel to certain areas if possible. Many of the warnings started in Brazil and South America, but now more than 20 places in the Caribbean are on the list. This is a major concern, especially for couples planning the increasingly popular “babymoon”. Places like The Bahamas, Aruba, and Saint Lucia are just a few of the hotspots pregnant women are being warned about these days.

beach-1324657_640With all of the warnings, many people are wondering if Caribbean tourism has taken a hit since the spread of the Zika virus. Well, it all depends on the area and who is travelling. According to the Caribbean Tourism Organization, there was increase in tourism during the first quarter of 2016. But, in the U.S. Virgin Islands for example, the tourism industry saw cancellations to the tune of $250,000. Things have leveled off a bit now. Tourism experts there now say they are not seeing widespread cancellations.

But, in Puerto Rico, it’s a different story. The Zika virus has surely had an impact on the travel industry. Experts there say they’ve seen room tax collections drop more than six percent over year due to less visitors. Zika has also affected the business Puerto Rico sees from businesses that book their meetings and conventions. Travel experts report more than forty-thousand room nights being cancelled going forward up to two years.

puerto-rico-1292634_640Travel agents say before the spread of Zika, travel to the Caribbean was actually on the rise. So, they believe that the mosquito-borne illness is to blame.

Experts in the travel industry have found that more people of childbearing age are cancelling Caribbean trips. According to the Travelers Leaders Group, about a quarter of their cancellations were from clients in their 20s and 30s, while fewer had cancellations from people over 40.

The economy of many places in the Caribbean relies on tourism to keep afloat. It is estimated that 25 million people visit there annually. In order to keep people visiting and keep them from cancelling Caribbean trips or even booking them in the first place, many areas have stepped up their efforts to fight the virus. Public areas are being sprayed as a precaution. Hotel guests are being given insect repellant and information is being posted about how to avoid getting bit. So, the region is doing its part to prevent Zika from taking an even bigger bite out of their economy. Some resorts are even offering deals in hopes of luring travelers in their direction. So, if you do decide to travel, you may actually be able to get a bargain.  Zika virus may continue to have an effect on the Caribbean economy until people feel more comfortable with travel in areas considered high-risk.