Zika Virus Scare Slows Travel To Miami
The latest data reveals that travelers have booked fewer hotel rooms in downtown Miami, and leisure airfares to the greater Miami area have have fallen in the weeks since the Zika virus was detected there.
Hotels sold 2.9% fewer rooms in Miami’s central business district and northern neighborhoods during the 1st 3 weeks of August than they did a year earlier in the same period, according to hotel data and analytics firm STR.
That area includes the Wynwood Arts District where on 29 July Florida officials said they confirmed cases of people who contracted the virus, marking the first transmissions by Mosquitoes in the continental United States.
The decline in hotel bookings may be an early indication of the virus’s effect on Miami’s strong tourism industry, which had an economic impact of $24.4-B in Y 2015, according to the Greater Miami Convention and Visitor Bureau.
The drop in the number of hotel room sales for the downtown and north Miami areas is a departure from largely uninterrupted growth in bookings there at least since Y 2010. From January 2016 through July, hotel stays by paying travelers were up 1.2% from a year ago, according to STR data.
But for the latest week ended on 20 August, the number of hotel rooms sold was down 4.2%, compared to a year earlier.
The senior vice president of lodging insights at STR, said the decline was not due to abnormally strong numbers the year before, and could reflect the impact of Zika virus concerns.
.”Zika is not only a serious threat to public health. It has the potential to be an equally serious threat to a community’s economy,” said travel industry analyst Henry Harteveldt, adding that worries about the virus likely contributed to the decline in Miami.
Earlier this week, officials reported new Zika infections in Wynwood, and also one case hundreds of miles away in Pinellas County, on the Gulf Coast.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that pregnant women who are worried about exposure to Zika might consider avoiding all of Miami-Dade County.
Friday, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended universal testing of donated blood for the virus in the United States and its territories.
In a sign that airlines are trying to stimulate demand to and from Miami, airfares have gotten cheaper from a year ago, according to an analysis of the top US domestic routes.
Leisure fares on Miami routes were down 9% in late July from the prior year, while those to Fort Lauderdale were down 14% the data shows. Fares were sampled on 18 and 25 July.
Since the first Zika cases were announced, the decline in leisure fares to and from Miami had widened to 16%, while fares for nearby Fort Lauderdale had dropped an average of 18% from a year earlier, the analysis found. That data is based on samples of airfares taken on 15 and 22 August.
Nationwide, the high-restriction leisure fares are down 3% in mid-August from the prior year.
American Airlines Group Inc (NYSE:AAL), the largest carrier in Miami, declined to comment on individual markets or whether the virus would impact its business. Its rival in the area, JetBlue Airways Corp (NASDAQ:JBLU), did not immediately comment.
While Miami Beach has continued to see hotel demand rise through August, that rate looks to be slowing, from 6.4% higher in the 1st 7 months of the year compared to the same frame in Y 2015, to only 2.6% higher this month, the data show. The same trend holds true for Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.
Miami Beach has about 2.5X the number of hotels as downtown and north Miami.
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Have a terrific weekend.