Tourism industry hit by swine flu

April 29, 2009 7:20:27 PM PDT
Both the United States and the U.K. are advising people to cancel all non-essential travel to Mexico, and the European Union is advising people there to avoid non-essential travel to the U.S. and Canada as well.

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So, the airline and cruise industries stand to take another serious hit from swine flu.

What swine flu? What recession?

Virgin America Airlines founder Sir Richard Branson arrived at SFO's gate A-12 to expand service, with a new route between San Francisco and Orange County's John Wayne Airport.

Even with reminders of a threatened swine flu pandemic checking in at a Virgin ticket counter, Virgin seems immune to worries that this new flu could hurt it and the airline industry in general.

"We've been through SARS, we've been through 911, we have been through everything. And I think as long as we take sensible precautions, we should be fine," said Branson.

Though Branson says they are ready.

"We're taking all sensible precautions like wet wipes on our planes, we've got doctors at the other ends of the phones should anyone show some symptoms, we've got masks for people who are coughing and so on," said Branson.

Cruise lines are cancelling stops at Mexican ports. The Balmoral sailed from Dover in February on a 104-day round the world cruise.

On Wednesday, it docked in San Francisco and San Diego is next. Acapulco was supposed to follow, but Captain Olav Sovdsnes says that changed last weekend.

"We checked out all our channels that we have, and then it surfaced that it was not going to work," said Captain Sovdsnes.

The Balmoral will now spend an extra night in San Diego before continuing on to Guatemala and Costa Rica. Costa Rica was added after Mexico was cancelled.

"Good idea, very sensible, and I think that the captain has taken some good advice," said Pat Pridige from London.

Even before the swine flu, passengers were already required to use hand sanitizer before boarding or entering any of the ship's restaurants or bars.

One longshoreman says he's been told San Francisco's economy will get a boost with some major cruise lines coming here as they divert ships from Mexican ports of call.

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