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Flight bookings to areas affected by the Zika virus areas have fallen by as much as 10% since early February, new data reveals.
Regions affected by the virus are Central and Latin America - with Brazil being hardest hit - and the Caribbean.
The bookings slowdown began to emerge following a travel warning from the US government Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on January 15, advising pregnant women to postpone travel to destinations where Zika transmission is active.
Zika is strongly suspected of being linked to microcephaly in babies – those born with brain damage and abnormally small heads.
A 4% slow-down worsened to 10% after February 1 when the World Health Organisation declared Zika a global health emergency.
However, the travel impact on Zika-hit destinations has not been uniform, according to the latest data from ForwardKeys, which monitors future travel patterns by analysing 14 million reservation transactions a day.
The analysis shows that tourist destinations such as Guadeloupe (down 21%), Martinique (-24%), Puerto Rico (-22%) and the US Virgin Islands (-27%), have been hardest hit with long-haul source markets most affected.
Looking ahead to the months up to May, the data shows a more optimistic picture, with some destinations, notably Brazil (+25%), Colombia (+29%) and Guyana (+40%), showing encouraging signs with forward bookings running well ahead of the same time last year. This is most likely due to Iberia, LAN and VivaColombia all substantially increasing route capacity.
ForwardKeys co-founder and chief executive, Olivier Jager, said: “When compared to the figures for the previous year, we have seen an overall drop of 4% and a further drop to 10% after the WHO’s announcement at the beginning of February.
“We believe this drop is related to the fear of Zika. It is unfortunate when you consider that as of today, WHO has not issued a travel warning, and is simply suggesting that travellers should take basic precautions.”
Jager added: “We will continue to use our data to monitor the effect of the Zika virus on Latin America and Caribbean countries, including keeping a close watch on flight bookings to Brazil.”
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