Zika threat hurts Latin American tourism

  • 08/02/2016
Municipal workers gesture before spraying insecticide at the neighborhood of Imbiribeira in Recife, Brazil, January 26, 2016. The operation is part of the city's effort to prevent the spread of Zika's vector, the Aedes aegypti mosquito, according to a statement from Municipal Health Secretary. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino - RTX24508

By Jeffrey Dastin

The Zika virus is discouraging many Americans from travelling to Latin America and the Caribbean, with 41 percent of those aware of the disease less likely to take such a trip, a Reuters/Ipsos poll shows.

The poll is the latest sign the virus, suspected to be linked to thousands of birth defects in Brazil, could depress travel to popular cold-weather getaways in the coming months.

Airlines and cruise ship operators have yet to report drops in bookings because of Zika, and analysts have downplayed the impact that newly sedentary parents-to-be could have on their revenue.

Still, awareness of the mosquito-borne virus has surged to nearly two thirds of Americans, according to the poll of 1595 adults in the United States conducted February 1-5.

That compares with 45 percent who had heard of Zika in a Reuters/Ipsos poll from late January.

"I am actively trying to get pregnant with my husband, so I am a little bit concerned," said Erica, a respondent who said she was bitten by a mosquito during a January trip to the US

Virgin Islands, where Zika has been reported.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has advised pregnant women to avoid travel to areas with an active outbreak of Zika, and the World Health Organization has declared an international emergency over the disease.

Of those aware of the virus, 41 percent said they were less likely to travel to Puerto Rico, Mexico or South America in the next 12 months because of Zika.

Some 48 percent said Zika had not changed the likelihood of their visiting those destinations, while others did not know.

Six out of 10 Americans aware of Zika said the virus concerned them, including 18 percent who said they were very concerned, according to the poll.

The poll of Americans' concerns and travel plans have a credibility interval - a measure of accuracy - of 3.8 percentage points.