Ebola – A threat to our tourism industry.

Having just visited the Netherlands, Greece, France and Italy, I can’t say I am particularly surprised to receive an article from The Economist:  Economic Consequences of Ebola.   (See below)  As soon as anyone we met discovered we were from South Africa they asked about Ebola.   We did our best to explain that it wasn’t a problem in South Africa, and those that believed us and didn’t move away, then asked if we knew any of the schoolgirls that had been kidnapped (Nigeria), or if we (like the “blade-runner”) slept with a weapon next to our bed.  It all seems so far-fetched, but yes these factors are probably having an impact on the number of tourists who visit South Africa – and will be felt even in Clarens.

So what can we do about it?   Not much except to spread information on the facts as widely as possible.   Derek Joubert’s article Ebola and Africa written for AG Africa Geographic is an excellent read, and we would suggest that it be passed on whenever possible.  ( You never know – it could make a difference.)

Dereck Joubert on Ebola and Africa

EXTRACT FROM THE FOLLOWING THIRD PARTY SOURCE: Written by Dereck Joubert for The Huffington Post

Africa is a continent, not a country, and it is big! I cannot tell you how often I meet someone and tell them I am from Botswana, and they ask if I know so and so, “I think he lives in Uganda.”

There has been a wave of hysteria in the media about Ebola and how it is raging through Africa. I want to tell you that it is not! ”The Killer African Disease” and other banner headlines in red with dripping blood graphics are unbelievable. So it is worth addressing some of this hysteria around Ebola and Africa.

First of all everything I say here is in the context of deep sympathy for anyone who has a family member or friend infected. At the same time, information about this, and every calamity is very important. To be of any use, it needs to be accurate and in context.

Africa is a huge continent that stretches wider than the USA, (4 350 miles versus the 3 400 miles of the USA) and twice as deep, from north to south, as the USA (4 500 miles versus the 2 600 miles of the USA). In fact the USA, China and Europe can all fit inside Africa’s landmass.

© Mbdortmund/Wikimedia

The USA is about 3.7 million square miles, Africa is 11.67 million square miles, more than THREE times larger. To suggest that one city or country in Africa is unsafe because another on the same continent has Ebola is clearly ridiculous. The virus is isolated to a few spots within very few countries in Africa: Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.

Africa has over 42 independent countries, each with its own economy, executive structure, language, health care systems, currencies, independent airlines etc. To travel between countries you require a passport, unlike the European Union, or states in the USA or even countries in North America. These are so uniquely different that cultures are different and even wildlife is so diverse that for example the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Rwanda have mountain gorillas, and yet 4 500km to the south Botswana does not even have mountains!

In the 36-year history of Ebola there has not been a single case in Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Namibia, Angola, and in fact most countries, while there have been cases in the USA and Europe (Spain).

Many people are canceling travel to Africa as a result and out of fear of contracting the virus. Some prefer to avoid Cape Town, or Johannesburg, thinking that if it is in Africa, it’s trouble!

When in March 2014 Ebola raised its head again, countries like Botswana, Kenya and Tanzania put in place strict screening processes for all arrivals and in Botswana, it stopped ALL travel from West Africa to ensure that it stayed Ebola free. This move was made six months before similar conditions were initiated in the USA.

There are, as a result, more cases in the USA and Europe than in East Africa, (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania) or Southern Africa, (Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Lesotho, Swaziland) as there has NOT been a single case in these regions.

There is US$200 billion-a-year tourism flowing through Africa, money that supports economies and communities which is often the only thing that keeps people above the breadline. If you ask anyone in Africa what is important to them it will be jobs, and the future of their children. Ignorance about Ebola can lead to an epidemic of poaching just to survive.

The isolation of Africa condemns Africans. The environment is intangible and irrelevant in a life where community, family and finally self is all important in a struggle for survival.


Economic consequences of Ebola – THE ECONOMIST

SAFARI tents remain zipped, hotel pools are empty, game guides idle among lions and elephants. Tour operators across Africa are reporting the biggest drop in business in living memory. A specialist travel agency, SafariBookings.com, says a survey of 500 operators in September showed a fall in bookings of between 20% and 70%. Since then the trend has accelerated, especially in Botswana, Kenya, South Africa and Tanzania. Several American and European agents have stopped offering African tours for the time being.

The reason is the outbreak of the Ebola virus in west Africa, which has killed more than 5,000 people. The epidemic is taking place far from the big safari destinations in eastern and southern Africa—as far or farther than the homes of many European tourists (see map). There are more air links from west Africa to Europe than to the rest of the continent, whose airlines have in any case largely suspended flights.

Moreover Ebola is hardly the biggest killer disease in Africa (AIDS and malaria are bigger). Yet, in the mind of many visitors, all of Africa is a single country. One despairing tour operator calls it an “epidemic of ignorance”.

Directly and indirectly, tourism accounts for almost 10% of sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP and pays the salaries of millions of people. The industry is worth about $170 billion a year. In 2013 more than 36m people visited Africa, a figure that had been growing by 6% per year. Now many safari lodges are closer to extinction than the animals that surround them. Redundant workers might eventually turn to poaching.

Ebola 2

Ebola in graphics: examining the data behind the crisis so far

Fear of Ebola is growing among Africans, too. Morocco said it would not host the African Cup of Nations, the premier football event on the continent, due to start on January 17th. Morocco had sought a year-long postponement, citing the danger of the virus spreading at large gatherings. Miffed, the Confederation of African Football barred Morocco, which has not had a single Ebola case, from the tournament. The three worst-affected countries—Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea—have not, or not yet qualified. Organisers are scrambling to find an alternative host. African football may be the next victim of Ebola.