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Despite Zika fears, Guanacaste hotels are booked for Easter holiday

The confirmation of the first cases of local transmission of Zika virus in Costa Rica did not have a negative effect on reservations at hotels in the province of Guanacaste ahead of Holy Week, which starts Sunday.

Guanacaste Tourism Chamber president Priscilla Solano Castillo said Wednesday that hotels at beaches and other tourist destinations reported an average occupancy of 98 percent for the holiday.

Just four weddings and two group trips had been reported cancelled to Guanacaste, one of the most visited areas of the country, out of fear of contracting Zika, she said.

Solano applauded a coordinated education and mosquito eradication plan between the Guanacaste tourism sector and government entities for helping keep reservation numbers up.

Another factor might also be boosting reservation rates: The Labor Ministry agreed earlier this month to give most of the 300,000 public sector employees the entire week off in order to promote domestic tourism during the holiday.

Recommended: Visit The Tico Times Travel section for ideas on where to spend Easter Holy Week in Costa Rica.

The Zika prevention plan for Guanacaste includes periodic fumigation throughout the province, collection of garbage — where mosquitos often breed — and distribution of printed information to tourists about Zika and how to prevent mosquito bites.

Health Ministry officials are also giving talks about preventive measures at hotels across the northern Pacific province.

Fumigation campaigns intensified starting last week as part of efforts to help tourists have a safe stay during Holy Week. The campaign will continue through April 26, Solano said.

In February, following confirmation of the first locally-transmitted cases of Zika and also a spike in cases of the mosquito-borne dengue and chikungunya viruses, the Health Ministry declared a state of emergency for 31 cantons located in all seven provinces.

The first two confirmed cases of Zika occurred in the Guanacaste canton of Nicoya. The state of emergency is currently in force for seven cantons of Guanacaste province: Liberia, Carrillo, Santa Cruz, Cañas, La Cruz, Abangares and Nicoya.

There are now eight confirmed cases of local transmission of Zika in Costa Rica, according to the latest report from the Health Ministry issued Wednesday. All of them occurred in Guanacaste.

In addition, health officials have reported Zika in four people who contracted the virus during trips abroad.

Contact L. Arias at larias@ticotimes.net

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