For hotels in the Caribbean and Mexico, the news came in time for their peak season: On Nov. 18, the World Health Organization declared that Zika was no longer a global health emergency and should be considered a dangerous mosquito-borne virus.
After more than six months of weak traveler demand, the interest in visiting these Zika-affected destinations, in some cases, was immediate and strong.
Within a day of the news, the Signature Travel Network, which has more than 7,000 agents, had received more than 1,000 inquiries for Caribbean and Mexico trips and several hundred confirmed bookings, said Ignacio Maza, executive vice president. “Reservations to these areas were slow this year because of the virus, but the pickup was speedy,” he said.
CheapCaribbean.com, which sells affordable Caribbean and Mexico trips, also saw a jump. “Though we didn’t have a decrease in trips to the Caribbean and Mexico because of Zika, when the W.H.O. status changed, we had our best two weeks of business to these destinations, thus far, for this year,” said Dan Marmontello, the site’s Caribbean product manager.
On the luxury end, the New York City travel company Ovation Vacationsbooked 93 Caribbean and Mexico trips in the week after W.H.O.’s announcement, said Julie Danziger, a managing director.
Some hotels, too, reported an instant turnaround. Banyan Tree Mayakobain Mexico’s Riviera Maya saw a spike in reservations for next year after the W.H.O. news, said Sergio Serra, the area director of sales and marketing for Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts in the Americas.
“Since Zika became a threat in late January, our typically busy periods haven’t been nearly as busy, but we are happily surprised by the boost in business we are getting now,” he said.
This surge in the Caribbean and Mexico comes after a tough year for the hotels there.
According to STR, the travel analytics company based in Hendersonville, Tenn., room demand in the Caribbean, based on 238,000 hotel rooms, decreased around 1 percent from January to October this year, compared with the same period last year.
This after room demand from January to October in 2015 increased 3.1 percent, compared with 2014.
“Demand took a hit following Zika, but we expect that to change going forward,” said Jan Freitag, a senior vice president at STR.
But while confidence about vacationing in Zika-affected regions may be up, health experts caution that the virus remains a concern. “The change in W.H.O.’s status doesn’t mean that Zika is less prevalent for travelers,” said Dr. Stephen Morse, an epidemiology professor at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.
He advised that pregnant women or those considering becoming so continue to avoid travel to the Caribbean and Mexico and said that all travelers to these destinations should protect themselves by using and frequently reapplying mosquito repellent.
Many hotels in the Caribbean and Mexico offered attractive packages in 2016 to help business. While the increase in demand probably means fewer deals, values still exist.
Here are four:
For travelers who book through a Signature agent, Paradisus Punta Cana Resort in the Dominican Republic has nightly rates from $497 for two people, including meals and drinks and two massages a stay. Emailinfo@signaturetravelnetwork.com to connect with an agent.
Banyan Tree Mayakoba is offering “Night on Us.” Guests staying four nights pay for three. Accommodations are in a 3,100-square-foot villa with a pool. Nightly rates from $574, after the discount. Valid for January.
CheapCaribbean.com has a three-night package for the Gran Melia Golf Resort Puerto Rico, inclusive of airfare from more than a dozen cities in the United States to Luiz Munoz Marin International Airport in San Juan, and 20 percent off food and drinks at the resort. From $379 a person. Valid from Jan. 2 to June 30.
The online travel agency Skylark.com is offering a seven-night stay for two at Dorado Beach, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve in Puerto Rico, from Jan. 19 to 26. Business class air from Kennedy International Airport in New York City to San Juan, beachfront accommodations, airport transfers and breakfast are included. $7,692. Skylark has similar deals for travel to Mexico and the Caribbean through March.