Operators say Zika warning has little impact on Mexico travel

Operators say Zika warning has little impact on Mexico travel

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
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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