The Zika Virus has caused a serious health concern around the world. The virus, which is spread via mosquitoes, can lead to serious illness. All it takes is one bite from an infected mosquito for people to develop symptoms such as fever, joint paint, red eyes, and rash. And, while the virus rarely causes symptoms more severe than that, it has been causing concern as of late.
In fact, in May of 2015, the Pan American Health Organization released a statement and warning against the virus, confirming an outbreak in Brazil. The biggest concern is for pregnant women who contract the virus since it could cause birth defects and other problems in the developing fetus. As a result of the risk, the Centers for Disease Control issued a travel alert, cautioning people against visiting areas where the risk for contracting the Zika virus is high.
Many people around the world, especially those who are expecting babies, are canceling travel plans as a result. And, unfortunately, this has put travel industry related companies, such as resorts, hotels, airlines, cruise companies, and more in a bind. They’re having to make tough calls about whether to credit or refund those who have booked trips but who now don’t want to risk making them.
It’s not just one or two areas that are being affected either. No, the Centers for Disease Control has issued warnings about 23 different parts of the world. This includes almost all of Central America, Samoa, and more. As a result, tourist influx in these areas is lower than ever. Even people who are not pregnant are worried about the risk of contracting a virus about which so little is known.
What’s even more frightening is that the World Health Organization doesn’t see an end to this outbreak anytime soon. In fact, it’s predicting that up to 4 million people will likely have been infected by the end of 2016. It is so concerned that it’s holding a meeting on February 1st to try and determine if the outbreak qualifies as a public health emergency.
And, while people may think they’re safe by staying inside of the United States, that’s not necessarily true. A case of the virus was recently recorded in Boston. However, it was contracted by someone who had traveled abroad, but the fear still remains.
The travel industry is also fearful at this time, unsure of how it will handle the hit and how long it will be affected. Most have reported large numbers of canceled trips. Some companies have even made the decision about how they will handle cancellations. American Airlines, for example, has decided to offer refunds to pregnant women and those traveling with them while Delta is offering various options on a case by case basis. Similarly, major cruise lines, including Norwegian, Carnival, and Royal Caribbean are offering refunds and other options.
One thing is for sure, though. Until the Zika outbreak is under control, it is imperative that all travel companies come up with a plan for how to handle cancellations…and deal with the lost profits as well.