News: Blog

Operators say Zika warning has little impact on Mexico travel

Reposted from logo_travelweek

Publication date 2/21/16

Tour operators and packagers last week reported that so far the Zika virus is not having a major impact on Mexico bookings.

“Of the hundreds of thousands of Apple Vacations customers booked to Mexico in 2016, less than half a percent have canceled due to Zika virus concerns,” the wholesaler said in a statement.

Mexico went on the offensive earlier this month to combat negative publicity due to being identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as one of about 30 countries where active Zika transmission has been found.

Mexico’s Tourism Board has been working to better inform travel agents and tour operators about the locations where its cases have been reported, which aren’t its popular tourist areas.

“All of the resort areas are Zika-free,” Rodolfo Lopez Negrete, the CEO of Mexico’s Tourism Board, said earlier this month when the agency released a map indicating where the disease had been reported.

Mexico’s map is far more precise than the CDC’s Zika map, which highlights all of Mexico, along with the other countries where virus transmission has been found. Mexico’s map shows that the current cases are in the states of Chiapas, Oaxaca, Nueva Leon, Jalisco, Sinaloa, Guerrero, Veracruz and Yucatan.

The CDC has recommended that pregnant women postpone travel to countries where there is Zika transmission due to a link between the disease and microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with abnormally small heads and incomplete brain development. The agency has not advised against all travel to these countries.

The overall impact on travel to Mexico appears to be minimal thus far.

“Mexico business continues to be very strong in 2016 for both FIT and groups, despite concerns with the Zika virus,” said Jack Richards, the president and CEO of Pleasant Holidays. Richards said that sales and passenger numbers to Mexico are up double digits in the first and second quarters of 2016.

“We expect this growth to continue throughout the year, especially in the key beach destinations of Cancun, Riviera Maya, Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta,” Richards said.

Dan Ruch, the CEO of Rocketrip, a corporate travel management company, said his company’s internal data has not indicated cancellation increases or a decrease in bookings to countries affected by Zika, including Mexico. Ruch said last week the company was starting to see anecdotal examples of potential impact in terms of “people mentioning knowing someone who has canceled a work trip or a leisure one.” But he said he has still not seen it manifested in any changes in business-travel behavior.

“This subset of travelers doesn’t seem to have been disrupted yet by Zika,” Ruch said.

David Hu, president of Classic Vacations, said the company has seen just “a few cancellations” for Mexico due to the virus.

One recent report suggested that while existing bookings may remain intact, what destinations with Zika transmission need to be prepared for is an impact on future ones.

Advertising technology and research company Fluent polled 3,312 Americans to gauge their views of the Zika outbreak and how it is affecting their willingness to travel in the coming months. It found that 44% would avoid planning trips to areas affected by the Zika virus and 43% would cancel their trip.

The company, which released its results last week, found that travelers with higher household incomes and frequent travelers were less likely to alter their plans.

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