How Travel is Reacting to Zika Virus
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UPDATE: 2:21 p.m. ET, 1/25/2016
Michael Field, product manager for tour operator Avanti Destinations, is in touch with suppliers in Brazil and elsewhere, and said, "We have not yet had a single booking canceled anywhere in Latin America. Fingers crossed but our business hasn’t been affected yet."
UPDATE: 1:58 p.m. ET, 1/25/2016
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. released a statement on the virus and booking issues, saying, “We are closely following developments with the Zika virus. We have not made any overall policy changes, but are handling guest concerns on a case-by-case basis.”
On the heels of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announcing it was expanding its previous travel warnings related to the mosquito-borne Zika virus, the travel and tourism industries are beginning to feel the impact.
Doctors warn pregnant women that the Zika virus has not only been connected to birth defects in Brazilian newborns, but is also being investigated as a possible cause of a rare paralysis syndrome called Guillain-Barre.
Many of the countries on the CDC travel warning list are popular tourism destinations, including Saint Martin, Mexico, Puerto Rico and others. There are signs that travelers who are pregnant are reconsidering their plans, and travel companies have been quick to respond.
Cruise operator Carnival Corporation & plc announced that pregnant women and their companions will be able to reschedule their cruises for a later date. Norwegian Cruise Line also announced it is working with customers who were looking to change their booking due to the virus.
Carnival Cruise Line released a statement on the virus:
“Carnival Cruise Line is committed to the safety, health and well-being of our guests and employees. We are in close contact with public health officials regarding the recent Zika virus alert that provides specific guidance to pregnant women and those trying to become pregnant. We are proactively providing all guests with information regarding Zika. Pregnant women who wish to cancel their cruise will be provided alternate itinerary options that do not include destinations on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s list of Zika transmission areas. Alternately those guests may request a future cruise credit and re-schedule their voyage at a later date (at no penalty). As with any travel, consumers should check with public health authorities to be informed regarding health matters at the destinations they will visit and exercise appropriate precautions. Those seeking additional information on the Zika virus are encouraged to contact their healthcare provider or visit the CDC website.
Norwegian Cruise Line also released a statement:
“At Norwegian Cruise Line, the safety and security of our guests and crew is of the utmost importance. We have been actively monitoring the Zika virus and remain in close contact with public health authorities. We regularly advise our guests to protect themselves from mosquito and other insect bites while ashore and are advising of the Center for Disease Control travel advisories and recommended precautions in daily communications. At this time, the only passengers that are advised not to travel to affected areas are expectant mothers and we have made accommodations for those guests to reschedule their cruise for a future date or change their itinerary to non-affected destinations. For anyone else traveling, the best method to avoid any risk is by taking steps to help protect yourself from mosquito and other insect bites including covering exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats and use an appropriate insect repellent containing DEET.”
The Caribbean Tourism Organization and the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association have also released a joint statement about the Zika virus:
Public health authorities in the Caribbean are working diligently to mitigate the effects of the Zika virus. Zika, also known as ZIKV, is spread primarily by the Aedes aegypti mosquito.
The public-sector-led Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and its private sector counterpart, the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) are in close contact with the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) to monitor and research the Zika cases that have now surfaced in some Caribbean destinations, and to communicate prevention and control measures to residents and visitors.
The CTO and CHTA are in communication with their respective stakeholders and are observing national, regional and international health protocols in dealing with mosquito-borne viral diseases which can be found in tropical countries.
With more than 700 islands in 30 territories in the Caribbean, conditions will vary from one nation to another. CTO and CHTA will continue to monitor all developments related to mosquito-borne viral diseases and to support appropriate communication, education and prevention initiatives.
Editor's note: Theresa Masek contributed to this report.
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