A survey by US magazine Travel and Leisure shows that most vacationers are sticking to their travel plans to Zika affected islands in the Caribbean despite advisories to do otherwise. The publication's special projects editor Jacqueline Gifford revealed the findings at a luncheon sponsored by the magazine for regional tourism officials at the Caribbean Tourism Organisation's (CTO) 43rd Caribbean Week New York at the Marriott Marquis Hotel, Manhattan.
Gifford said Zika is clearly on the minds of travelers and the magazine is monitoring the latest developments for the benefit of readers on-line and in real time. She said another survey revealed that group travel and weddings planned for the region were cancelled and rebooked in territories believed to be Zika-free. Even so, a subsequent survey by Travel and Leisure's advisory board, which constituted 18 of the world's top travel agents, showed clients are keeping their travel plans to Zika affected regions.
"Seventy-six per cent were keeping their plans, 13 per cent were cancelling their plans, six per cent were travelling the same day to non-Zika regions and five percent were postponing their plans," she said.
"Also, 99 per cent of their clients were knowledgeable about the Zika virus. There are various levels of education here and I think the important thing to do is to keep this on-going process and to make sure that people stay aware. We are doing our job as a trusted media brand to do the same thing. It's something we are monitoring and we want to make sure that everybody is on the same page and have the most up-to-date information."
Gifford said the Caribbean retained its popularity despite the efforts of other markets to woo traveller and there are opportunities for growth in this market.
"The Caribbean is the number two market with Europe being number one. This is a really, really powerful market," she said.
Gifford added: "I do think that culinary travel is something that is really popular right now and it's only going to get bigger. Sometimes people are planning their trips around the meals that they want to have. They'll look at the restaurants and then they'll build a whole vacation about the reservations that they can make.
"I know that many destinations are looking to grow things locally. That's something that American travellers are coming to expect when it comes to farm to table�that kind of concept."