Zika concerns not impacting Florida tourism, so far

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — With more Zika cases confirmed in Miami, experts are wondering if Florida tourism will take a hit. Florida’s economy makes millions in tourism dollars each year.

A total of 15 mosquito-transmitted Zika cases were reported Monday. All are within a square mile radius of north Miami.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control issued a travel alert for pregnant woman and their families traveling or living in the Wynwood, Miami neighborhood where the cases were reported. They’re asked to avoid the area or cover up.  OneBlood is now screening all blood donations for Zika. 

The United Kingdom and several states have issued travel advisories for pregnant women going to south Florida.

Travel agent Ruth Marcus of Four Seasons Cruises and Tours said she’s not seeing a decline of tourists wanting to visit the Sunshine State. She works out of Largo and books clients from all over the world, including the United Kingdom.

Marcus said if anything she’s seen an increase of clients because the prices of cruises and tours are cheaper this time of year.

“I haven’t had one cancellation and I’ve called couple of the cruise lines to see if they had any because they’re going out of Fort Lauderdale, Miami. Nobody is cancelling,” she said.

Governor Rick Scott said Monday more than 60 million tourists have traveled to Florida so far this year. He said the outbreak is contained to a small area in Miami.

“I think we’ll continue to see tourists. We’ll see about 115 million tourists. Just remember, it’s one square mile, and we’re doing everything we can to prevent that from spreading,” Scott said.

Visit St. Pete Clearwater Executive Director David Downing said Zika talk has been swirling in Pinellas.

“Our number one concern is always the safety for our visitors,” Downing said. “This is one in a long line of things that could pose a threat to tourism, particularly when it involves the United Kingdom. That’s our number one international market.”

The county’s tourism numbers have not declined so far, officials said. “People who travel are pretty savvy. They understand that if it was confined to a very small area, in one specific area in town, in a city that’s on the other side of the state, chances are they’re fine here,” Downing added.

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