As travelers avoid Zika, some vacation spots quietly benefit

Associated Press


With government officials now warning pregnant women to avoid Miami Beach in addition to Puerto Rico, some sun seekers are desperately scrambling for a Zika-free vacation.

And that has left other tourist destinations to capitalize – quietly.

Travel experts say families worried about Zika are now looking to Arizona and Southern California to get some sun, along with cooler weather locales such as New England and Canada.

The Zika virus is transmitted by mosquitoes or through sex with an infected person. In pregnant women, a Zika infection can cause severe birth defects, including microcephaly, where babies are born with a dangerously small head. In others, it can lead to Guillain-Barre, which can cause temporary paralysis and in rare instances, death. That was the case earlier this month of a man between 35 and 45 years old who died in Puerto Rico after being infected.

Given that background, many would-be vacationers don’t want to take the risk.

Jen LeFante and her husband, Chris, are expecting their first child in March. The New Jersey couple had wanted to escape to Puerto Rico or the Florida Keys for some relaxation before the baby arrives.

“But it seems like every travel destination we picked is on the Zika list,” she says.

Instead, they are doing a number of smaller, driving trips including ones to upstate New York and Vermont.

Bermuda has seen several groups move meetings and conventions there from Caribbean islands, according to Glenn Jones, director of public and stakeholder relations at the Bermuda Tourism Authority.

“That’s been a welcome and unexpected boost to our business this summer,” Jones says.

On Tuesday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced a nontravel-related case of Zika in the Tampa Bay region.

It’s the first in the state outside the Miami area, but Scott said there wasn’t enough evidence to date to declare a new zone of local transmission.

If Department of Health officials conclude mosquitoes have transmitted the disease to people in the Tampa Bay area of Pinellas County, it would the third such area in the continental U.S. following clusters of cases traced to downtown Miami’s Wynwood arts district and a touristy area of Miami Beach.