Travelers are in the midst of making decisions about their summer plans, and there are many factors—including security—that play into their choices. Traveling overseas on the U.S. Dollar is cheaper than it has been in a while, but concern about the Zika virus is affecting international bookings and could boost domestic travel. How could this affect leisure travel this summer?
“Flight bookings to destinations hit by the Zika virus have been consistently slowing, following the US government’s travel warning and the World Health Organization’s declaration of a global health emergency,” according to ForwardKeys, a traveler data intelligence company.
Flight bookings to Zika affected areas dropped about 8 percent after the official travel warnings were released in January, according to ForwardKeys. “Some destinations are less affected by the current situation, while others combine Zika with previous negative trends, thus worsening their performance,” the report says.
For example, flight bookings to Brazil made from Jan 15th to Feb 10th were down just three percent compared to the same period last year, while Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands were hit hard with a 22 and 27 percent drop, respectively.
Whether this booking trend will continue and how it will actually affect the number of summer travelers is undetermined, but the same report shows expected arrivals between March and May remain down for the hardest hit destinations.
It may come in handy to bookmark the CDC’s Zika prevention kit for any travelers that may be headed into Zika affected areas.
One-third of the world’s cruise ship capacity is deployed in the Caribbean, where Zika is a serious concern. How might the cruise industry be affected by this?
24 million cruise passengers are expected to set sail this year, according to figures released by the Cruise Lines International Association before the virus became a worldwide concern. Wells Fargo Securities analyst Tim Conder estimated that, at most, the alarm over the Zika virus may cause cruise bookings this year to be cut by 6 percent, or 1.4 million travelers, according to CNBC. He also advised that cruise lines generally don’t allow pregnant women in their third trimester on board. Since pregnant women are being warned not to travel to Zika affected areas, this may limit the number of cancelations or decisions not to cruise.
The International Travel & Health Insurance Journal recently reported that demand for specific cruise travel insurance is growing along with the rise in cruise bookings. According to figures from InsureMyTrip, the number of travel insurance policies sold to cruisers in January jumped 10 percent compared to the same month last year.
“With the increase of security threats happening abroad, I wouldn’t be surprised if in 2016 we begin to see more U.S. travelers booking trips to domestic hotspots like Hawaii, Alaska and San Diego,” said Cassie McNab, marketing manager at CSA Travel Protection.
Travelers in the U.S. are spending more this year, and more this summer— at least that was the forecast in December. A 3.4 percent rise in U.S. travel expenditures was forecast for 2016, according to the U.S. Travel Association, and signs show domestic travel may even get a boost from fear about overseas terrorism and the Zika Virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Andrew Saunders, president of the real estate company Saunders & Associates, recently told U.S. News and World Report that security concerns are causing an increase in the number of travelers choosing to stay close to home rather than renting overseas this year.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll from February showed that 41 percent of Americans aware of the Zika virus say they are less likely to take a trip to affected areas.
Luckily, no cases of Zika are reported to have been acquired in the United States. However, it’s still a sound idea to keep an eye out. The types of mosquitoes that are able to transmit the virus have historically been found across the US, from East to West coasts, and some estimates show that up to 200 million Americans live in areas where the disease could potentially spread during the summer.
On a lighter note — road trips are likely to be a popular summer getaway. With gas prices at decade lows and the 100-year anniversary of the National Park Service, featuring centennial celebration events throughout the nation in August, the roads are sure to be packed.
The AARP reports that 95 percent of Baby Boomers plan to travel domestically in 2016, with Florida, Las Vegas, California, New York and Hawaii as the most mentioned destinations. Summer Vacations, Multi-Generational trips, and Weekend Getaways are cited as the most popular reasons for Boomer travel, which are also some of the peak situations for choosing to stay at a vacation rental.
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