Zika + high airfares = Fewer tourist arrivals

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By Monique Washington

Although many hotels on the island close during the summer months,hotel owners that plan to remain open worry that due to the Zika virus threat and high airfares,summer hotel arrivals may reach an all-time low.

Hotelier Richard Lupinaaci, owner of the Hermitage, revealed last week during the Mango Festival that the mosquito-borne Zika virus and high airfares may affect summer arrivals.

Searching American Airlines fares from New York and Chicago to St. Kitts and Nevis some are as high as EC$2,000 per round trip.

Questioned about fares on Thursday by the Observer, Lupinaaci said although American Airlines has dropped their prices from some U.S. states to Puerto Rico and Costa Rica, while the cost to travel to St. Kitts and Nevis is very high.

The Hon. Mark Brantley, Minister of Aviation in the Federal Government announced this week via Social Media that he has been having “very fruitful early discussions with owners of PAWA Airlines of the Dominican Republic. Promising air links between St Kitts Nevis and Dominican Republic. Aviation and tourism matter.”

Lupinaaci pointed out that that U.S. advisory about the Zika virus has caused many guestswho planned to come to the island this simmer to cancel.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued Zika virus travel notices for numerous countries. More than 40 countries are listed however St. Kitts and Nevis has never been listed.

Airfare and the Zika virus are among other things that have affected the summer arrivals according to Harrison Liu, Four Season’s Resort director of public relations and communications. “At this time, we cannot say with any certainty that summer arrivals to our resort are being affected by any single factor,” Liu said. “Several factors may be at play, such as limited and expensive airlift to our Federation, economic conditions in the U.S. and Canada, illness fears and elevated competition in the region and overseas destinations.”

Speaking with the Observer on Thursday,Chief Medical Officer Dr. Patrick Martin confirmed that St. Kitts and Nevis has no reported cases of Zika.

He noted residents should continue the fight to eradicate the Aedes mosquito that is the carrier of the virus, which is also considered a domestic mosquito that spends most of its time “around people.”

“Measures to prevent Zika are the same as those to prevent Dengue and Chickungunya. They include checking water and wrigglers (larvae) in receptacles in and around homes, offices and yards; emptying such receptacles; removal of all litter; applying approved repellent; and use of mosquito screens and nets,” Martin said.

The “female Aedes can lay 3,000 eggs in two to three weeks.  Insecticide spray does not kill Aedes eggs or wrigglers.  Aedesdoes not breed in swamps or dirty drains.

The Ministry of Health urges all residents to continue to eradicate Aedes breeding sites in and around homes.  Any container that can hold a single drop of water is a potential breeding site.