With less than two weeks before the start of Art Basel, Miami Beach is getting some relief from the Zika virus outbreak that has resulted in a spate of canceled hotel bookings during the internationally popular art fair.
Gov. Rick Scott said Tuesday that the state’s health department has declared a three-mile area between 28th and 63rd streets in Miami Beach Zika-free.
“The good news is for the northern part of the Miami Beach area that was impacted, we are able to clear it now,” Scott said at a press conference at Roasters N’ Toasters on 41st Street in Mid-Beach. “It’s been more than 45 days since the last active transmission.”
In mid-September, state officials cleared the first declared Zika zone, a 1.5 square mile area in Miami that included Wynwood, Midtown and the Design District. However, 1.5 square miles between 8th and 28th streets in Miami Beach remains an active Zika zone, as does a one-square-mile area in Little River from Northwest 79th Street to the north, Northwest 63rd Street to the south, Northwest 10th Avenue to the west and North Miami Avenue to the east.
“We can’t take things for granted,” Scott said. “We are going to keep fighting to make sure our tourists come back. We want everyone to come back to Miami Beach.”
The Zika virus, which is transferred through mosquito bites or sexual activity, primarily affects pregnant women and is linked to microcephaly, a birth defect that stunts the development of a fetus’ brain. The Centers for Disease Control has also issued travel advisories warning pregnant women to avoid the Zika zones in Miami and Miami Beach.
William Talbert III, president and CEO of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the governor’s announcement shows there is a “light at the end of the tunnel.”
“We had a Zika forum at the Fontainebleau Hotel yesterday,” Talbert said. “Every sector of our community was there, working together. Good things are happening.”
Two months ago, several hotels said they had struggled to hit booking goals for Art Basel, with resorts like the Loews Miami Beach suffering more than 700 cancellations, and that revenue per available room dipped 11.1 percent year-over-year, with occupancy facing a similar 7.5 percent drop in the same time period.
On Tuesday, STR reported that Miami/Hialeah was only one of two top 25 markets to experience a double-digit decrease in revenue and occupancy in October. The other market was Houston. Revenue per available room in Miami/Hialeah fell 12.6 percent to $106.92, driven by an 8.4 percent decline in occupancy to 67.2 percent, STR said.