Following the US government’s travel warning and the World Health Organization’s declaration of a global health emergency due to the Zika virus outbreak, flight bookings to destinations hit by the virus have fallen.
According to the latest data from ForwardKeys, flight bookings to the affected areas as a whole have fallen by 3.4% since 15 January, and by 10% in early February. Areas affected by the virus are Central and Latin America - with Brazil being hardest hit - and the Caribbean.
The ForwardKeys data shows the slowdown began to emerge following a travel warning from the US government Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on 15 January, advising pregnant women to postpone travel to destinations where Zika transmission is active. Zika is strongly suspected of being linked to microcephaly in babies – those born with brain damage and abnormally small heads. On 1 February, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Zika a global health emergency and the 4% slow-down worsened to 10%.
Olivier Jager, Co-founder and CEO of ForwardKeys said: “When compared to the figures for the previous year, we have seen an overall drop of 4% and a further drop to 10% after the WHO’s announcement at the beginning of February. We believe this drop is related to the fear of Zika. It is unfortunate when you consider that as of today, WHO has not issued a travel warning, and is simply suggesting that “Travellers should take basic precautions…”.”
ForwardKeys analysis shows that tourist destinations such as Guadeloupe (-21%), Martinique (-24%), Puerto Rico (--22%) and the US Virgin Islands (-27%), have been hardest hit and long-haul origin markets most affected.
Looking ahead, to the months up to May, the data shows a more optimistic picture, with some destinations, notably Brazil (+25%), Colombia (+29%) and Guyana (+40%), showing encouraging signs with forward bookings running well ahead of the same time last year, most likely as a consequence of the airlines Iberia, LAN and VivaColombia all substantially increasing route capacity.