BY BETH J. HARPAZ
The Associated Press
Just back from the Dominican Republic, Orly Benaroch Light says nobody seemed worried about Zika. “The resort that hosted our conference was jam-packed with families, couples, honeymooners, destination weddings and our conference,” said Light, president of MCE Conferences, which organizes continuing medical education conferences. “Everyone walked around wearing shorts, short-sleeve shirts, tank tops and sleeveless dresses,” though people did use mosquito repellent.
But Jared Kamrowski, whose new site, ThriftyTraveler.com, lists daily flight deals, said he believes Zika is impacting prices, with tickets for places like San Juan, Puerto Rico, as low as $180 round-trip from New York. “Almost everyone I know who has a baby on the way was able to reschedule their vacation to other locations” outside of Zika zones, said Kamrowski, who added that he “visited Puerto Vallarta earlier this month and didn’t see a single mosquito. Spring break season is a relatively dry time of year for most of the Zika zone so the fears are largely overblown. It is a great opportunity to snag a cheap ticket though.”
Data is mixed on hotel and airline bookings.
ForwardKeys, which monitors travel patterns by analyzing reservation transactions, said flight bookings to Zika-affected areas have fallen by 3.4 percent since Jan. 15 and by 10 percent in early February.
CheapOair found bookings to Cancun, Mexico, are down 19 percent for travel February-April comparing this year with last year, but the travel booking website also found that bookings are up to Montego Bay, Jamaica, Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
StudentUniverse, which is geared to younger travelers, reported slight increases in bookings for Cancun and San Juan for spring break season.
Hotel occupancy in Puerto Rico for the week leading up to President’s Day was up slightly compared with the same week a year ago, but in Cancun, occupancy for that week was down 7 percent compared with 2015, according to STR Global, which tracks hotel data.
A Travel Leaders Group survey found that 20 percent to 25 percent of the company’s travel agents reported clients in the age range of 20s and 30s are changing plans to avoid Zika destinations, usually because of a pregnancy.