Tour Bus Cancels Wynwood Stops Over Zika Fears

Wynwood's transformation from scrappy artist haven to full-on tourist attraction has been swift. And one of the surest signs of the switch came when the big, open-air tour buses began stopping outside Wynwood Walls and disgorging hordes of camera-toting visitors to wander the murals.

Zika, though, is threatening to bring that tourism boom to a screeching halt thanks to the CDC's new warning that pregnant women should avoid the area. Now, one of those bus companies has announced that its fleet will no longer stop in Wynwood.

"When I heard the news yesterday, I just wanted to be proactive about it," says Gus Moore, director of the Miami Tour Company. "Rather than putting people in a position where they're going to be worried about taking the tour, we just said, we're going to make a policy not to stop in Wynwood for now."

Wynwood has made national news for all the wrong reasons since the CDC announced over the weekend it had traced multiple locally transmitted Zika cases to the neighborhood β€” the first such cases in America. At the last count, 14 people have now been infected in the area. (A 15th case announced last night was transmitted elsewhere in Miami.) 

The tour company's move is the latest sign that Wynwood businesses will have a major reckoning to face while trying to stay afloat amid America's first locally transmitted Zika outbreak. Outdoor restaurants and bars in the area are scrambling to decide how to deal with the situation. 

Moore says he is waiting for city and state leaders to come up with a better solution to address the spread of zika. 

"The city needs to jump on this and provide some solutions," Moore says. "To me, this could have the kind of effect that the German tourist shootings had in early '90s. People will question coming here. They need to do something about it soon because it's going to be very bad for business."

Wynwood business groups, though, said they believe tourists shouldn't be deterred from coming to the area.

β€œThe community of Wynwood will do whatever is necessary to be vigilant in our prevention and will follow the guidelines outlined by the Florida Department of Health," Goldman Properties CEO Jessica Goldman Srebnick and Wynwood Business Improvement District chairman Joseph Furst said in a statement to the media yesterday. "Wynwood's restaurants, galleries, retailers, and art-filled streets remain open for business."

Indeed, Big Bus Miami β€” a competitor of the Miami Tour Company β€” is still running its tours through Wynwood, a company operator tells New Times.
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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink