Zika hurt Puerto Rico's Most Stable Economic Industry

SAN JUAN, PR -- The Zika Virus has hit tourism hard on the US Territory of Puerto Rico...riight in the middle of that island's major financial crisis.

During that time, tourism is the only industry that’s stayed steady or shown growth until Zika hit.

"We've heard it on the news. But we hadn't really researched it to say we're not going to go here or go there because of it," said Carolyn Wright, a visitor to the island.
While Wright and her daughter Monique weren't worried about the virus, tourism officials had to be.
"It was kind of worrisome when you get numbers like a fourth of the population is going to be effected. People get afraid. But the important thing here is you need to look at the facts," said Clarisa Jimenez of the Puerto Rico Hotel and Tourism Association.
Iin February, the Centers for Disease Control estimated that thousands on the island would catch Zika.
The announcement came just as Puerto Rico was swinging into high tourist season.
"Measure by measure, metric by metric, all of it was increasing. So obviously, we went into a defensive mode and a proactive mode," said Ingrid Rivera Rocafort, head of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company.
She's been working with Jimenez since the CDC published it's estimates to change the narrative about Zika on the island.
"We were like what's going on here because we knew the numbers were never going to be that kind of high," Jimenez said.
Tourists were not so convinced and the number of people visiting Puerto Rico dropped fast.
”We should have been producing information that we have much faster than the government did," said Puerto Rican Senator Angel Rosa.
Rosa worries the tourism dip could hurt jobs, which could reduce household incomes, which could impact a family's ability to fight Zika.
”It’ll have a negative economic impact and it has. No question about it," Rosa said.
Despite that, Wright and her daughter got the message tourism officials were trying to get out: Puerto Rico is safe for travelers.
"No. We didn't bring any bugspray," Wright said.
Tourism officials just got done doing multiple press stops in the United States in New York, Chicago and Dallas convincing travelers to come visit Puerto Rico.
They say 89% of the country’s tourists are from the continental US.
"I believe it will be through the end of this calendar year," Rivera Rocafort said. "We had chikungunya and nobody talks about chikungunya anymore.”


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