Poll finds educating women on Zika could ease its bite on travel season

Travel companies, airlines might be too quick to waive cancellation fees

TORONTO, Feb. 17, 2016 /CNW/ - A new survey by Harbinger, a North American agency with expertise in marketing to women, has found 80 percent of women will avoid travel to Zika-infected regions this winter.

While heightened concerns among women over Zika may not be surprising given its pregnancy associations, the survey findings suggest travel providers could help ease the financial impact of Zika by taking proactive steps to educate women about the virus. An estimated 90 percent of travel decision-makers are female*.

The survey found women (nine percent) are only half as likely as men (18 percent) to say they would/will still book travel to a Zika-infected region. Young women 18-34, in particular, are among the would-be travellers most concerned about Zika, with nearly one in 10 (eight percent) having already changed or cancelled travel plans and another four percent considering doing so.

Cancellation fees may not be an issue

While a number of major travel providers are allowing some customers to cancel or postpone travel to Zika-infected regions**, the survey found cancellation fees might not be a major issue for travellers.

While 14 percent of all respondents would change or cancel travel, if it would not cost them money to do so, nine percent would be willing to incur financial penalties to modify their plans. Travellers under the age of 35 (15 percent) are even more willing to incur charges or cancellation fees.

With women holding power over many travel purchases the survey suggests travel companies and airlines could offset some of the financial effects of Zika by educating them about the virus and their travel options to help them make informed travel decisions.

"Travel companies might want to consider proactively communicating with young women in particular about Zika, presenting relevant facts and proposing alternative travel arrangements before simply offering refunds," says Jennifer Lomax of Harbinger. "For example, travel companies or airlines could post credible information about Zika right to their web sites or better yet send them proactive e-communication to allay their fears or to offer new travel options to prevent cancellations."

More detail on how the travel industry can help mitigate the effects of Zika can be found at www.harbingerideas.com/zika-takes-bite-out-of-travel.

*Source: Shaw Media, 2015
**Source: USA Today (January 28/16) - http://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/flights/todayinthesky/2016/01/26/united-offer-refunds-waivers-travel-zika-affected-regions/79366334; Huffington Post (February 2/16) - http://www.huffingtonpost.com/smartertravel/worried-about-zika-heres_b_9134050.html

About Harbinger
Harbinger develops purpose-driven programs that drive preference, purchase and profit with women. We combine our broad and deep understanding of consumers with our proprietary process and tools to ensure we deliver the best strategic approach and the strongest possible marketing programs to meet our clients' objectives.

About the study
From February 10-11, 2016, two online surveys were conducted of 1,505 randomly selected Canadian and 2,004 randomly selected American adults. The margin of error, is +/- 2.5 percent and +/- 2.2 percent, 19 times out of 20, for the Canadian and American surveys, respectively. Results have been statistically weighted according to Canadian Census data and American Community Survey data to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult population of Canada and the United States, respectively.

SOURCE Harbinger Communications Inc.

Image with caption: "Harbinger (CNW Group/Harbinger Communications Inc.)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20160217_C8526_PHOTO_EN_622566.jpg

For further information: For more information or to arrange an interview please contact: Jennifer Lomax, Vice President, Strategic Planning, Harbinger, (416) 960-5100, #224


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