Following the World Health Organization’s (WHO) declaration that the Zika virus is “a public health emergency of international concern”, the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) released statements on Tuesday.
Both UNWTO and WTTC emphasise that the WHO has not called for any travel and trade recommendations with countries, areas and/or territories with Zika virus transmission as it has not found a public health justification for such measures.
“WTTC advises travellers to follow the health and travel advisories issued by the authorities and to take appropriate precautions to avoid getting bitten by the Aedes mosquito when travelling to places with a high-risk of infection”, the WTTC said. “These are normal anti mosquito protection procedures, using insect repellent, avoiding places with standing water and covering up where possible.”
UNWTO underlined that health and tourism authorities are working together to inform residents, tourists as well as the industry about the precautions to be taken and the tourism sector is working closely with health authorities to follow WHO prevention recommendations.
“As per the impact on the tourism sector, it is too early to make any effective assessment considering the evolving nature of the situation”, the UNWTO said.
Likewise, the WTTC said that it is too early to comment on the impact of the Zika virus to the travel and tourism sector.
“Tourism boards, health organisations and companies across the sector are working together on formulating an appropriate response in every country impacted. Most airlines, cruise lines and tour operators from originating countries are being flexible, by offering alternative plans or refunds to pregnant women and their families who prefer not to travel to affected areas at this time.”
The Zika virus, spread by mosquitoes, is suspected to be linked to the recent cluster of microcephaly (malformations of the head and brain) in the children of women infected while pregnant. The clusters were found in Brazil recently and in French Polynesia in 2014.