Zika Virus to Affect Travel to Puerto Rico, Other Regions
SAN JUAN – Growing concern over the fast-spreading Zika virus—which has affected Caribbean tourist destinations like Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Barbados as well as Latin American countries like Mexico, Brazil and Panama—has prompted the travel industry to make adjustments that may affect tourism in the aforementioned regions.
On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned pregnant women and those planning to get pregnant against travel to the affected areas. Experts say the mosquito-borne disease is possibly linked to microcephaly in babies.
In light of this, cruise lines have begun waiving cancellation penalties for some customers booked on voyages to the Caribbean and other regions affected by the virus.
Industry giant Carnival says it will allow pregnant women on sailings that include stops in the USVI, Puerto Rico and other destinations impacted by the virus to switch to an itinerary in an unaffected area. Alternately, they can postpone their trip or cancel outright and receive a future cruise credit, the company announced.
Norwegian Cruise Line also is allowing pregnant women sailing to affected areas to postpone trips to a later date or switch itineraries, and Royal Caribbean is giving pregnant women alternative options, too.
Meanwhile, Hilton Worldwide, with 109 properties across its 13 brands in the affected areas, as well as Hyatt hotels and Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, are considering waivers for cancellations on a case-by-case basis, the New York Times reported.
The seven Ritz-Carlton hotels in the Caribbean and Latin America, including two resorts in Puerto Rico and one in Cancún, Mexico, are going a step further by educating employees about the virus and providing mosquito repellent for guests to use in areas such as swimming pools and dining patios.
“We understand that travelers are especially sensitive to this issue when they consider their visit to the region, especially in light of the recent CDC warning,” said Catherine Leitner, a spokeswoman for the Ritz. “Our sales executives are in contact with our customers who express their concern, and we have received a small number of inquiries.”