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Mosquito threat not bugging tourists

Published Oct. 18, 2005

Florida's worst outbreak of mosquito-borne encephalitis in 13 years has the tourism industry dismissing the chances of people catching the virus but still worried that visitors might change their travel plans. The outbreak of the disease has thrown a scare into the $26-billion-a-year industry already feeling sluggish from the slumping national economy and rising gasoline prices.

But while some local tourist officials feared a disaster, there have been few reports of trip cancellations.

"People know that there's a problem, and they're asking what to do about it, but as far as we know no one is postponing or canceling their trip," said Mary Lou Janson, public relations manager for the Tampa/Hillsborough Convention and Visitors Association. "They just want to know how to deal with the problem when they're here."

But Jack Smith, executive director of the Key West Hotel and Motel Association, said he's seen several groups cancel trips in recent weeks.