Zika isn’t stopping Americans from traveling abroad

More than half of US travelers surveyed say they don't have the knowledge they think they need to deal with Zika virus outbreaks while traveling internationally. (Credit: iStockphoto)

Global concerns about Zika virus aren’t stopping Americans from making international travel plans, but many who do plan to go abroad say they want more information about the virus.

The findings may point to the need for travel destinations to provide more detailed information about where the risks actually are as well as where travelers can seek medical help if they fall ill, says Lori Pennington-Gray, director of the University of Florida’s Tourism Crisis Management Initiative.

That information could help prevent the spread of the disease in the United States, she says.

The results are based on an online survey of 300 US citizens who have traveled internationally in the past five years.

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About a quarter of those travelers have plans to travel internationally in the upcoming three months. Of those with international travel plans, more than 90 percent says they will keep them, and 44.3 percent say they will take extra precautions to protect themselves from Zika virus.

In addition, more than 70 percent believe they should use EPA-registered insect repellants to protect themselves. Less than 55 percent believe wearing permethrin-treated clothing is an effective way to stay safe.

Most interestingly, more than half of US travelers say they don’t have the knowledge they think they need to deal with Zika virus outbreaks while traveling internationally.

When asked where they would turn for trusted information, the CDC scored the highest with more than 50 percent believing the CDC would help provide information to protect them when traveling internationally.

The destination country was the second most likely place tourists said they would seek information on how to protect themselves from the virus.

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The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued travel guidance in January on affected countries, including precautions and guidelines for travelers and residents.

“The newness of this disease could have a tremendous impact on destinations, particularly if tourists engage in a lot of outdoor activities when mosquitos are at their peak, says Pennington-Gray.

“This rise in cases is also having an effect on planning and managing for the upcoming Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.”

“Travel destinations should share information and updates from the CDC as well as putting the risk into context,” says Ashley Schroeder, managing director of the Tourism Crisis Management Initiative.

“It is imperative that each destination provides travelers with geographically specific information so travelers can make educated decisions,” she says. “Forward-thinking destinations such as Hawaii Tourism Authority already engage in this practice.”

Source: University of Florida