Monday, 15 August 2016

Florida tourism officials braced for impact after Zika outbreak

THE WARNING by the Centres For Disease Control in the US about #Zika has sent ripples of concern through #Florida.

Local officials in Miami are confident they will contain the Zika virus from spreading, but they are far less confident about the hysteria that surrounds the outbreak and its impact on the $89 billion tourism juggernaut.

‘Yes, I'm losing sleep,’ Santiago Corrada, the head of Hillsborough County's tourism agency, Visit Tampa Bay, told

The problem is that cities across Florida face an identity crisis when travellers think of the area. ‘Florida gets painted with a broad brush stroke,’ says David Downing, executive director of Visit St. Pete-Clearwater.

Industry analysts such as Miami-based hotel consultant Scott Brush say the impact could build throughout the coming months.

‘It’s probably going to have a measurable effect in part because the summer is more voluntary, last-minute tourism. It’s mostly leisure and is more easily postponed or changed than business travel,’ Mr Brush told the Miami Herald. ‘So yes, I think there will be a measurable effect and that measure may be very small, but you don’t know. This is very early on.’

Orange County mayor Teresa Jacobs has talked about the state’s theme parks and their efforts in mosquito control. ‘If you’re coming to Florida as a tourist, if you’re coming to the theme parks, then you’re coming to some of the safest places in the world because they have mosquito control down like no place else,’

Officials from Disney World and Universal Orlando have yet to address the Miami Zika outbreak, but Orlando officials say that the theme parks have larger mosquito control operations inside their gates than the sizeable budgets of most local governments.

The Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau isn’t downplaying the threat, but officials are stressing that the outbreak is contained in a small radius.

‘Pregnant women are encouraged to visit all of Miami-Dade County — except one square mile. That’s what the UK says, that’s what the Centres For Disease Control says,” said William Talbert, president and CEO of the Miami tourism bureau.

‘This community has a long track record of dealing with these mosquitoes. The situation can change tomorrow, we know that, and we’ll stay engaged with everybody as this evolves.’

Florida has welcomed a record number of visitors each year since 2011, and hopes to attract 115 million visitors this year.

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