Are Zika Fears Mounting?

What social analytics reveal about Rio and Zika

For months, the shadow of the Zika virus has loomed over the 2016 Rio Olympics. But are concerns rising or falling? Throughout the last few months, we’ve monitored the conversation surrounding Rio, paying special attention to the share of that conversation centered on Zika. This analysis has helped us better understand how athletes and audiences are feeling about the games.
Here’s what we’ve seen.

As athletes drop out, the call to cancel grows

The overall conversation of Zika and Olympics has grown exponentially in the last few months. Unsurprisingly, social media conversation around Zika has been largely negative. And it’s getting worse — negative sentiment has spiked in the last few months.
While negative comments are on the rise, only about 13% of overall conversation focuses on cancelling or postponing the games.

However, each time an olympian decides to exit the competition, concerns rise. The departure of golfers Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Jordan Spieth has ignited social conversation over the last few months, and social users are waiting to hear if other prominent athletes will forgo the global competition. Conversations surrounding Spieth, Day and McIlroy alone have accounted for about 11% of total Zika Olympics conversation in the last 2-3 months.

Each day renews the conversation

We can also see that the conversation for this topic peaks in the morning. This is likely due to the fact that readers are waking up, reading the morning news, and responding to the coverage over social media, perhaps on their commute to work.
Many travelers who had been considering traveling to Rio for the games — who had been offered tickets to attend, or a place to stay in Rio for the Olympics — have decided against attending. Interestingly enough, the majority discussion seems to be from fans who are concerned about seeing something happen to their favorite athletes.

I wait 4 long years to watch the summer olympics but this year I’m scared Zika is going to wipe out the world’s most elite athletes
— Luisa Rueda (@luisaruedaa) June 1, 2016

So what can we take away from these insights? Firstly, conversation about Zika and the Olympics will continue to rise until the games begin. Secondly, the mounting number of olympians departing has definitely contributed to the concerns of attendees and viewers of the Rio games.

As the final days before the opening ceremonies unfold, excitement should become the primary emotion driving discussions over social media.  But for the moment, anxiety is running high leading up to this year’s Olympics.
To learn more about analyzing today’s travel audiences, check out our recent blog about  ‘How Social Media Insights Can Help Build Cuba’s Tourism’.

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