Zika fears ‘impacting tourism’

Fear over the spread of the Zika virus in the Caribbean has been blamed for a decline in stay-over tourism in Grand Cayman this year.

Zika is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito.
Zika is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

After two years of record arrival figures, visitor numbers dropped in each of the first four months of 2016.

Overall stay-over tourism declined from 151,657 in the first four months of 2015 to 147,342 in the first four months of 2016, a drop of 2.8 percent.

Though there have been no reported cases of Zika in the Cayman Islands, Director of Tourism Rosa Harris said the public perception is that the disease is a threat across the entire region.

She said group bookings, including wedding parties, were particularly affected in the first few months of the year.

“A number of hoteliers have lost group business because companies do not want to put employees at risk,” she said. “Even though we don’t have Zika, it is the perception and the threat overall to travel.

“Our wedding and romance business is significant,” she said. “It has hurt our business tremendously. Brides are deciding to stay at home rather than consider a Caribbean wedding because of the perception that the entire Caribbean has Zika.”

She said the Cayman Islands is too small to be noticeable as Zika-free on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s map, which highlights affected areas.

“It shows as if the entire Caribbean and Latin American region is impacted,” she said.

She said the perception that Zika is a threat is a major issue across the region, and that Cayman’s Department of Tourism is working with travel agents and marketing partners to convince tourists that it is not a threat here.

Answering questions from legislators about the drop in tourism arrivals, during a Finance Committee hearing on Friday, Ms. Harris said the decline in the Canadian economy is also a factor.

While tourism numbers from Cayman’s main source market, the U.S., are up slightly, visitors from Canada and Europe are down.

“A number of economies are impacted and concerns over travel safety have fueled some of the shifts in our arrivals,” she said.

Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell said spending is increasing in spite of the dip in arrival figures due to the increase in room rates.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Certainly the decline is multifactoral, economic issues are likely predominate from Canada. I wonder, though, the impact of rising crime in Cayman. Public crime involving tourists has increased and may be a part of the observed decline in tourism.

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  2. A far fetched assumption. May be it is a fear of GM mosquitoes? Crime and the Dump pollution? Or mosquitoes and fear have nothing to do with it?

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  3. I wish that people would stop being political correct , and learn to except and say what the problem really is .
    If tourism is down in Cayman Islands, and there’s no ZIKA virus in Cayman , how can that be blamed for the decrease in tourism ?

    I know that the big monster next door Cuba has opened up for tourism , I know that crime is on the rise and looks like not much efforts are made to wipe it out . I think that the Cayman Islands tourism product is not the same as what it was in the past years .
    All the above mentioned factors could be the reason for the decrease in tourism , but I think that the time has come for a new strategy for marketing the Cayman Islands tourism to keep it in the marketplace .
    So I say stop being political correct and start using a common sense approach to the issue , and remember that after you loose it , it’s harder to get it back .

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  4. In fact there have been cases of Zika in Cayman. That news is enough to scare people. And let’s face it: our government (like most tourist destinations) isn’t exactly known for its frankness and honesty when it comes to reporting local diseases. How long was it before our authorities admitted there were any AIDS cases in Cayman, back in the day?

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  5. A more formal, objective, analysis of the potential factors affecting tourism is in order before concluding only one issue is the cause. In relation to Zika, is all carribbean tourism down, as would be expected if this was the major source. Cayman is more expensive than most other carribbean nations so economics may be a factor. Is tourism down, in general, everywhere? What is Cayman’s reputation for crime at present? You cannot underestimate the power of a stories where eldery residents are beaten on their porch in rum point, or young children are subjected to burglars climbing through their window in expensive rental homes of rum point.
    A more thorough, honest, investigation of these factors will be helpful to determine the most predominate factor. Next will be getting any of those in powers to care enough to act upon the findings.

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