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How Long Will Tourists Avoid The Caribbean Because Of The Zika Virus?


The Caribbean is one of the most tourism-dependent regions in the world.

But the Zika virus outbreak is putting U.S. travelers off of visiting the Caribbean and Latin America – with 41 per cent planning to steer clear.

Tour firms have yet to report dips due to the virus – linked to severe birth defects including microcephaly in babies – and analysts have downplayed the impact that parents-to-be deciding not to travel could have on their revenue.

Comprised of more than 700 islands spanning 30 territories, the West Indies sees more than 25 million visitors annually and the US is its number one source, PBS reported.

About 15 million Americans visit the Caribbean every year, contributing nearly $50 billion toward the region’s overall Gross domestic product (GDP).

So with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announcing a level two travel warning — meaning the agency is issuing a caution, but stopping short of telling people to avoid travel there — due to a presence of the Zika virus in several Caribbean nations, an essential part of Caribbean economies could take a hit. The travel alert poses a significant threat to islands like Barbados, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, where foreigners often descend to escape winter.

“We call them snow birds,” said Hugh Riley, secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO). “Not only is this the most popular travel time of year, but the Caribbean is on a strong trajectory right now in terms of visitors to the region overall.”

Riley said the Zika virus hasn’t had any significant impact on arrivals to the Caribbean so far but the data relies primarily on cancellations. What worries him most is what Riley calls “missed business.”

That is the unknown number of people who may opt out of booking travel to the Caribbean altogether.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy has been reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Caribbean region since 1989. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is originally from Detroit, Michigan.

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