Zika Survey: 49 Percent of Americans Want Olympics Postponed or Canceled

Photo by Freeimages.com/Stefano Barni

Allianz Global Assistance has released a new study on travelers’ concerns regarding the Zika virus and this summer’s Olympic and Paralympic Games in Brazil.

According to the study, nearly half of Americans (49 percent) think that the Olympics should have been delayed (34 percent) or canceled (15 percent) to protect people from the virus. 48 percent would rather wait to attend the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

The 10-question survey was administered to the U.S. internet population on May 26, 2016, through Google Consumer Surveys, receiving 2,110 responses.

The survey found that 71 percent of Americans would not be interested in traveling to Rio de Janeiro or Brazil for the 2016 Olympic Games, with 82 percent of respondents saying the Zika virus impacted their opinion towards traveling to South America during the summer. Forty-two percent of those respondents said that they definitely would not go, 23 percent would be less interested in going and 18 percent would go, but be worried about Zika during the trip.

Recent acts of terrorism throughout the world have also played a factor in Americans’ hesitation to travel to the Summer Olympics, with 28 percent reporting terror acts have made them less interested in attending.

Other factors hindering interest in traveling to the Olympics include travel costs (31 percent), safety concerns (25 percent), health concerns (11 percent), lack of interest in sports (10 percent), large crowds (8 percent), difficulty getting tickets to the games (8 percent) and lack of desire to travel (6 percent).

In a review of travel bookings comparing trips from July 15-31 in 2015 and 2016, Allianz Global Assistance also found that there was a 273 percent increase in travel plans to Rio with 6,440 Americans expected. The average trip length, however, is 13 days, which is fewer than the 26-day average from the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

WHO Weighs In

The release of the survey follows Tuesday’s announcement by the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO), which said that there is a “very low risk” of further international spread of the Zika virus as a result of hosting the games, CBS News reports. The panel said that there should be no “general restrictions on travel and trade with countries [or] areas" associated with the virus. 

“Brazil will be hosting the Games during the Brazilian winter, when the intensity of the transmission of arboviruses, such as dengue and Zika viruses, will be minimal,” the WHO said in a statement provided to CBS. “The individual risks in areas of transmission are the same whether or not a mass gathering is conducted, and can be minimized by good public health measures.”

  • The announcement came as a result of the third meeting of the WHO’s emergency committee on Zika, and resulting in the following additional guidelines:
  • Pregnant women should not travel to areas with ongoing Zika outbreaks
  • Pregnant women should ensure safe sex practices or abstain from sex for the duration of their pregnancy if their sexual partners live in or travel to areas with Zika outbreaks
  • Travelers headed to Zika-affected areas should be provided with up-to-date advice on risks and measures to reduce the chance of exposure through mosquito bites and sexual transmission. Upon return, travelers should take measures, including safe sex, to reduce the risk of onward transmission
  • The WHO should regularly update its travel guidance with the most up-to-date information on the virus

Last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also released a statement indicating that there is no public health reason to postpone or cancel the games, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported at the time. 

The most recent Allianz survey shows more traveler trepidation regarding the virus than previously published research. In a Travel Leaders Group survey conducted in April, 96.1 percent of respondents indicated that the Zika virus had not impacted their travel plans, although 87.1 percent had heard of the virus. Also in that survey, 23.2 percent of respondents said they were planning to travel to a country affected by Zika this year, with 30.9 percent opposed. 29.3 percent had no intention of going to a Zika-affected country in the first place, while 16.6 percent were undecided. 

Are your clients expressing concerns about the Zika virus? Let us know in the comments below.