Will the Zika virus affect travel plans?

We polled our online community to find out

Jonathan Pitts

With reported cases of the Zika virus rising and increasing concern over the long term effect it can cause we wanted to see if the virus would cause members of the UK to change, or reconsider their travel plans this year.

Via our Your Views online community of over 1700 members we asked “Will the outbreak of the Zika virus across the Americas make you more likely to holiday within the EU this year?”. Over 20% of respondents said yes, it would make them more likely to holiday within the EU, 15% said it wouldn’t and the remaining 65% said it wouldn’t impact their chosen holiday destination.

We wanted to dig further into the reasoning behind these results so started up a discussion within the community asking if the Zika virus would cause them to reconsider their holiday destination this year.

Within 48 hours we had over 220 responses from our members. A large proportion of respondents said that the Zika virus wouldn’t cause them to reconsider their holiday destination as they either weren’t planning a holiday, or were looking to travel within the UK or EU.

“I am not going abroad this year so it will not effect us.” – Margaret

Some respondents were going to the Americas but had said that the Zika virus would not affect their plans.

“We are going to Costa Rica, which last time I checked was one of the few bits in Central America that was free of Zika, although I did see it included in a list from Australia Health. Either way it wont change our plans as the serious risks are limited to those pregnant or at risk of pregnancy. We will take standard precautions regarding mosquitoes – but no more than that.” – Don

A lot of the reasons given for respondents not looking to reconsider is the fact the worst affected are pregnant women, this is in line with Public Health England now advising pregnant women, or women looking to become pregnant to avoid Brazil and other regions of Latin America. With the news that the virus is being linked to a neurological disorder and long term damage could well cause more of the public to reconsider travel plans, which we can measure.

A number of respondents who had not yet made their holiday plans had said that the Zika virus will impact where they decide to go this year.

“I haven’t booked anywhere yet for this year’s holiday, but the Zika virus will discourage me from places where I have been bitten by mosquitoes in the past. Places like Egypt and the Caribbean will now be deleted from my searches. I would hate to be bitten and then keep wondering. I hope I haven’t discouraged anyone else and hope you all enjoy your holidays!” – Allan

“I shall avoid holidaying in any area where the Zika virus has been reported. There is no point exposing myself to unnecessary risks, especially as at the present time there is no effective treatment for the disease.” – Ron

Finally, a number of respondents have said the virus has caused themselves or relatives to already cancel their travel plans.

“It has not affected me, but my son ans his partner who is 14 weeks pregnant were due to travel to Cuba in May. The travel company would not let them cancel as Cuba has up until now not been infected so they decided to cancel and take the cost of losing their deposit as it’s not something you can chance. I totally agree as how can you look at the babies born in South America and think what sort of life will they and their families have. My heart goes out to them.” – Elizabeth

Looking at our quick poll results and discussion comments, it appears that people looking to holiday within Europe will not look to change their plans as the Zika virus has not yet reached this area. For those who have already paid for holidays in or near the affected areas some are still looking to go, mainly because they believe the worst affected are pregnant women. However, some people who have booked holidays in or near affected areas have already cancelled their holiday to avoid any chance of catching the virus.

With further countries announcing cases of the Zika virus and news it can be linked to a neurological disorder and long term damage, it could cause more Brits to reconsider or cancel their holiday plans in the countries with cases of the virus.

If you would like a copy of the discussion comments, or to survey your own customers to see if it’s likely to affect their travel plans email jpitts@harrisinteractive.co.uk or call 0161 242 1363.

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