ST JOHN’S –– The mosquito-borne Zika has not yet been detected in Antigua & Barbuda, but the country’s tourism sector is already reeling from the effects of the disease, as it is currently counting losses of at least $50,000 in cancelled hotel bookings.
General manager of the Antigua Hotels and Tourist Association (AHTA), Neil Forrester, said that due to fears of Zika, some visitors had cancelled their Antiguan vacations, despite the virus not being here.
“Just last week, I’ve been asking the resorts to report their cancellations and just for the first week, several hotels are coming back with not massive cancellations, but at this time of year one cancellation can mean tens of thousands of dollars. We’ve seen $50,000 to $100,000 in just the first week,” Forrester said.
The Centre For Disease Control (CDC) has placed tourist hot spots like Barbados, St Martin, Martinique on the Zika travel alert list, and Forrester said it was a matter of time before all Caribbean territories were added to this list.
Major airlines and cruise lines are offering hassle-free refunds or rebooking to worried passengers in response to growing concerns over travel to countries and regions affected by the mosquito-borne virus.
Forrester said hotels in Antigua & Barbuda would be forced to follow suit.
He added that the media were fuelling the fear of Zika.
“Have you ever heard CNN mentioning the mandatory vaccine that was given to all pregnant women in Brazil just before this outbreak or about the genetically modified mosquitoes? That is all being kept under wraps. We have all heard the sensational side in that there have been 4,000 cases of microcephaly and they are linking it to Zika; it is a very one-sided story that is being put out in the media that is creating this fear factor,” Forrester said.