San José, Costa Rica – Costa Rica’s tourism industry voiced worries that a new US health alert about the risk of Zika in their country might seriously dent their huge tourist industry, worth nearly $3 billion.
The notice issued Monday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expanding a warning over Zika transmission to virtually all of Central America, including Costa Rica, was “a threat to tourism,” admitted Massimiliano Devoto, head of the country’s tourism employers’ association.
He urged action to prevent the spread of the mosquito-borne Zika virus, which the World Health Organization said it “strongly suspected” was responsible for a spike in serious birth defects.
Last year, a record one million Americans spent time in the country reputed for its beaches, volcanoes and nature zones.
Tourism is its biggest source of foreign exchange revenue, topping $2.9 billion in 2015. Some 600,000 people — more than 12 percent of the population — depend directly or indirectly on the sector.
Costa Rica has so far reported two cases of Zika infections, both of them contracted by people returning from abroad. Other nearby countries, however, are reporting far higher numbers, with the virus spreading locally.
The Costa Rican Tourism Institute appealed to the tourism sector and beach towns to boost preventative measures against the virus, “given that we are in the high season,” which runs from November to April.
In a statement to AFP, the institute said tourism companies needed to emphasize publicly that the country “is still considered a safe vacation destination.”
– AFP NEWS