UPDATE 2-Airlines worry Zika may be hurting Americas travel -IATA CEO
(New throughout, adds detail on cruise ship operators, updates statistics on Zika in Brazil)
By Jeffrey Dastin
NEW YORK Feb 25 (Reuters) - A number of airlines have raised concerns that the rapidly spreading Zika virus may be discouraging travel in the Americas, the International Air Transport Association's Director General and CEO Tony Tyler told reporters in New York Thursday.
His comment on the sidelines of an event hosted by the global airline trade group marks one of the industry's first acknowledgments that the mosquito-borne virus could hit revenue.
"A number of members have expressed concern that they may already be seeing some effect on travel, particularly in the Americas," he said. "When we publish (traffic) numbers, particularly I think the regional numbers for January, perhaps there will be the first indication of that."
Tyler could not comment on what kind of impact the airlines were seeing, whether destination switches by travelers or lower bookings overall.
Bookings to Zika-hit parts of the Americas fell 3.4 percent from a year ago between Jan. 15, when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a travel advisory for pregnant women, and Feb. 10, according to a report last week by travel data analysis company ForwardKeys.
Scientists are investigating a potential link between Zika infections of pregnant women and more than 4,300 suspected cases in Brazil of microcephaly, a condition marked by abnormally small head size that can result in developmental problems.
Other travel companies, such as cruise ship operators Carnival Corp and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd , have yet to report a hit from the virus. Continuación...