Sun | Oct 22, 2017

Florida officials go into damage-control mode over Zika

Published:Sunday | August 7, 2016 | 12:00 AM
A community worker Center, right, hands out a can of insect repellant to a local resident last Thursday.

TAMPA, Florida (AP):

Thank goodness it's the slow season in Florida.

At least that's what officials and representatives of the state's multibillion-dollar tourism industry are thinking in the wake of the news that 16 people have been infected with Zika in a small, trendy neighbourhood in Miami.

The outbreak has sent another chill through the Sunshine State's all-important tourism industry just weeks after the Orlando nightclub massacre and the killing of a two-year-old boy by an alligator at nearby Walt Disney World.

Florida officials have gone into damage-control mode, with Governor Rick Scott insisting, "We have a safe state!" during a tour of the Zika hot zone in Miami's Wynwood district.

Tourism is Florida's biggest industry. Visitors spent some $89 billion here last year. And Disney is America's No. 1 tourist attraction.

Outside of a few business owners in the affected square-mile neighbourhood, however, Zika appears to have done little damage to tourism so far.

"We have not had anyone cancel a trip to Florida because of Zika," said Jenny Cagle, vice president of Elm Grove Travel in Wisconsin. "It's definitely a conversation. People are talking about it."

Demetra Prattas, vice president of Turon Travel, a New York-based company that books art tours and trips, including the annual Art Basel festival that includes events in Wynwood, said: "I don't think it's a factor in deciding where to go. We've had no cancellations."

The governor has been on something of a state wide Zika tour, meeting with county health officials and business owners in Miami and along the Interstate four corridor that runs through Orlando.