Puerto Rico Tourism Industry Tries to Calm Zika Virus Fears

The tourism industry of Puerto Rico is hoping it can ease concerns of tourists about Zika virus on the Caribbean island that is strapped for cash, describing extra precautions that are being carried out by businesses.

Clarisa Jimenez the Puerto Rico Hotel and Tourism Association CEO and president said the group felt this was being blown out of proportion.

She said the industry has taken the measures that were recommended by the CDC from day one.

In Puerto Rico, a U.S. commonwealth, tourism is very important as the island struggles through a deep recession and the inability to pay public debt of $72 billion.

Puerto Rico hotel’s comprise close to 7.1% of the GDP on the island and adding indirect businesses to those hotels takes that percentage up to about 10%, shows a report released by the public corporation Puerto Rico Tourism Company (PRTC), which prompts the commonwealth.

In 2015, Puerto Rico had a strong year of tourism. In January of 2016, occupancy rates increased 11% in comparison to last year said the PRTC. However, growth in February was down 3% and in March, it was down 5%.

The PRTC is informing potential visitors about the misconceptions of the presence of Zika on the Caribbean Island.

Zika is spread typically by mosquitoes, but sexual intercourse can spread it as well. The Center for Disease Control has stated Zika can cause microcephaly a birth abnormality in which newborns have usually small heads.

The tourism association hopes it can make it clear that the CDC did not ban travel to Puerto Rico when it issued a recent alert level two for the island as well as other locations. There are three levels of warnings for travel, that the CDC uses.

The CDC is suggesting that travelers practice more enhanced precautions while traveling in Puerto Rico.

Authorities as well as hotels say extra precautions are being taken with regular repellant that is EPA approved being sprayed, assuring that proper levels of chlorine are being used in fountains and pools and informing all guests about the practices of keep doors as well as windows on balconies closed during the night and applying sunscreen prior to repellant.

The PRTC, which follows the recommendations of the CDC that women who are pregnant should avoid traveling to specific destinations, also says that less than one half of one percent of the 3.5 million residents in Puerto Rico contracted the virus.

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