Zika virus could scare tourism business away from Tampa Bay

UK issues travel warning for state of Florida
Posted at 8:42 PM, Aug 02, 2016

Florida's 15 homegrown Zika cases continues to cause alarm in Miami-Dade County and beyond.

While Gov. Rick Scott says the state’s tourism is on a record-setting pace for this year, the CDC is warning pregnant women not to travel to some parts of South Florida.

And one foreign government recently advised its citizens to steer clear of visiting the entire state, leaving some worried about Zika’s impact on tourism dollars coming to the Tampa Bay area.

The Amos and Mills families are keeping Zika in mind during their annual trip to Florida. 

“It’s really something to be aware of,” said Dusty Mills, who is vacationing from West Virginia. “Just like us, around our house, we keep everything sprayed down, trying to keep mosquitoes taken care of.”

But even those precautions are not enough to ease concerns of the United Kingdom. Its government issued a travel advisory for the entire state of Florida.

“To put a blanket advisory over the whole of the state is irresponsible and a bit of a knee-jerk reaction, I think,” said Laurie Black, owner of London Pride British Store in Largo.

ABC Action News tracked down the numbers from area convention and visitors bureaus. British tourists make up half of all international travelers in both Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties. According to St. Petersburg/Clearwater Visitors and Convention Bureau, 657,344 people from Great Britain visited in 2015 -- up 3 percent from the year before.

Tourism officials estimate the average international visitor spends about $400 per every day.

“They’ve invested so much more in travel,” said Black. “The flights here are so expensive, so they tend to make it a once-in-a-lifetime [trip].”

Despite the concern, local tourism officials say they are confident numbers will remain up in Tampa Bay.