Disease outbreak affects Florida travel

October 28, 1990|By Orlando Sentinel

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The thought that a visit to Central Florida could result in a deadly encounter with an encephalitis-carrying mosquito is worrying tourists.

Calls have poured into local hotels and the Visitors Center from tourists and meeting planners, all of them wondering if a trip to metropolitan Orlando will be safe. The center is operated by the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau Inc.

It isn't clear how many tourists or meeting groups have canceled or postponed trips to Central Florida because of the encephalitis outbreak. Tourism officials haven't tried to quantify it.

Bill Watson, executive director of the Central Florida Hotel-Motel Association, said last week he wasn't aware of conventions that canceled because of the encephalitis scare.

But John Rutherford, spokesman for the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said officials of the American Bankers Association have said that three bankers decided not to attend the convention, which began Oct. 20, because of the encephalitis scare.

At the Visitors Center operated by the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau, as many as 50 calls a day are coming in from worried tourists, and "it's astounding what sort of misinformation is out there," Mr. Rutherford said.

Hotels and attractions are strongly urging groups to reschedule outdoor meetings inside, Mr. Watson said. And they're telling tourists to adopt the same precautions urged upon residents: They should stay indoors at night or wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and apply plenty of mosquito repellent.

At Walt Disney World, many outdoor parties have been moved indoors since the local health departments warned of encephalitis.

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