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Zapping Zika: P.R. Tourism Co. optimistic for ’17

Tourism Co. Executive Director Ingrid Rivera-Rocafort

Experiencing a 96 percent reduction in the number of new Zika cases since the peak in October 2016, the Puerto Rico Tourism Company expressed optimism recently heading into 2017.

Over the past 10 weeks, there has been a markedly steady decline of reported new Zika cases, with new cases of Zika infection peaking at 5,317 for the week of Oct. 7-14, but by the week of Dec. 19-23 reported cases had decreased to a low of 222.

Cases are now at about 1 percent of Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million population versus forecasts that 25 percent of Puerto Ricans would eventually have the virus by the end of the year.

In the wake of the epidemic that struck the island this year, in February, the Tourism Co. launched an aggressive educational outreach program to dissipate the fears and communicate the facts about Zika.

Collaborating with the Puerto Rico Hotel & Tourism Association as well as Meet Puerto Rico, the agency launched the “Facts not Fear” campaign.

Stressing on the reality that Zika was not growing nearly as rapidly as the Centers for Disease Control had projected, the Tourism Co. worked to change the Zika conversation, and emphasize the reality that reported cases are a fraction of what was projected. Last week, the agency confirmed that the “layered collaborative educational and fact-driven campaign has been successful.”

“The dramatic decrease in the number of Zika cases in Puerto Rico is a testament to our integrated aggressive program to inform and disseminate the facts and allay the fears,” said Tourism Co. Executive Director Ingrid Rivera-Rocafort.

“The Tourism Co. worked incredibly hard with the industry and health officials to communicate accurate and precise messages about Zika to the public. Ultimately, our team has been successful in not only educating our residents but protecting our visitors and our critical tourism industry,” she said.

Tourism annually contributes nearly $4 billion to Puerto Rico’s economy and was the first industry to come out of the island’s five-year recession, the agency confirmed earlier this year.

Since the start of Zika, total hotel registrations from January-September in 2016 are 1.6 percent above 2015 and 10 million passengers are expected to arrive by year’s end.

“Our collaborative efforts to date in 2016 have been effective in allying fears, controlling Zika and the data backs it up,” said Clarisa Jiménez, president of the Puerto Rico Hotel and Tourism Association.

“It is imperative that we keep our foot on the gas pedal and aggressively continue all of our efforts to keep our visitors informed and our guests safe and worry free as we look forward with optimism through 2017,” she said.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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