Ebola Virus Killing Tourism
Travel companies have revealed that bookings for African safari holidays have dropped by up to 70 percent following the deadly Ebola outbreak.
Tour operators say demand for holidays in traditional safari hotspots such as Kenya in east Africa has plummeted in recent months, despite being almost 3,000 miles away from the Ebola-stricken countries of the west.
Industry leaders say holiday bookings to Africa were edging towards an all-time high this year before declining rapidly in July as panic over the deadly disease set in.
The impact is most noticeable in East Africa, home to safari hotspots such as Kenya’s Masai Mara and Tanzania’s Serengeti.
Most people don’t realize how vast Africa is and that east and southern Africa are just as far from the outbreak area as Europe or South America. All safari countries have enacted strict precautionary measures.
Traditional safari destinations such as South Africa, Zambia, Botswana, Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya are far from the Ebola-afflicted regions of Liberia, Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. flight from Nairobi to Monrovia, Liberia, is more than 3,000 miles away. However, there has been widespread panic about the disease, which kills more than 70 percent of those infected.
Eastern and southern African countries have already implemented emergency measures to control the spread of the Ebola virus with some banning travellers who have visited affected countries.
However, Jake McCormick, a safari specialist with Shadows of Africa, said the Ebola outbreak has caused a 70 percent decrease in inquiries at his company, which offers tours in Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda and Zanzibar.
And Brett Thomson, managing director of Sun Safaris, said that bookings down by 50 percent compared to last year.
Charlie Bateson, product director of high-end travel company Abercrombie & Kent said that some clients were mis-informed about the disease.
‘Although the Ebola virus is not airborne at this time and can only be caught through coming in contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, and is currently limited to destinations in West Africa, we have recently experienced a small number of clients deferring their holiday plans to the rest of the continent,’ he said.
‘We remain in constant contact with the FCO, WHO and with tourist boards and our supplier partners across the world.
‘Our tour consultants are given the latest news on developments and have the ability to specifically advise clients on how the virus is transmitted so that they are able to allay clients fears.’
As of the October 17, the World Health Organization (WHO) have reported a total of 9,693 suspected cases of Ebola and 4,811 deaths from the disease since the outbreak started in December last year. More than half of the deaths have been in Liberia.
There could be up to 10,000 new Ebola cases per week in the three hardest-hit nations by the end of the year, the WHO said.
According to the World Tourism Organization’s 2014 global travel report, tourism to Africa was due to increase by up to six percent this year before the epidemic took hold. The continent had already experienced a growth of five percent in 2012 – the equivalent of three million more tourists, to reach 56 million.
Botswana is one country that has suspended entry for travellers who have visited the affected countries including Liberia, Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone in the last 30 days.
In Tanzania, all major border posts have mandatory health screening in place, including all international airports.
South Africa refuses to admit foreign citizens arriving from Ebola-affected countries in West Africa, while South African citizens will be allowed to re-enter, but only after being subject to strict screening.