Africa Tourism – Suffering from Ebola Ignorance (25.11.14)
What’s the difference between Madrid, Paris, Rome and London as a group of cities in comparison to Cape Town, Johannesburg, Zanzibar and Nairobi? I’ll tell you – the former group is less than 5,000 miles from the WHO response map for the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea whereas the latter group is 7,000 miles away.
So why, when I met our African destination management company colleagues earlier this month, were they reporting international tourism numbers down by almost 50%?
The short answer was because, as the shocking images of Ebola victims’ plight arrive on the world’s TV screens, the whole continent of Africa (so often misunderstood) has been written off as a dangerous ‘no go zone’. Visitor numbers have already dropped by as much as 70% in some areas, despite the fact that East and South Africa offers access to arguably the most exciting, diverse and rewarding holiday destinations at this time of the year.
“We have never seen such a slow down… the whole continent’s tourism industry is being blanked en masse”.
With people’s reputed understanding of world geography so good these days – how can this be?
As things stand the three countries most affected by Ebola cover just over 400,000 sq km, which in comparison to the whole continent of Africa – an area of over 30,000,000 sq km – is significantly small. In fact it is one seventieth.
Measured in distance it is more absurd than people refusing to holiday in London due to the outbreak in violence in Syria or Iraq. Or deciding not to visit Alaska because of a cholera outbreak in earthquake-hit Haiti.
Furthermore, the amount of human traffic from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea to destinations in Europe is considerably higher than that to East or southern Africa.
The point is, with distances so great and international visitor numbers so severely lacking across the most exciting, prestigious and prolific wildlife areas in East and southern Africa today, there is no better time to visit. In the spirit of welcoming customers back to Africa there are some fabulous promotions. Safari camp promotions can be combined with some the continent’s most impressive beaches, secluded hideaways and adventure locations. The weather at this time of the year is also superb in the majority of top safari locations.
If it’s statistics that worry you, I suspect a double-decker London bus probably poses more of a threat than contracting Ebola while on safari.
On this basis, as eternal lovers of Africa, we at Nomadic Thoughts are wholeheartedly embracing the concept that now is one of the best times to visit so many of our favourite traditional safari locations.
We also understand that ‘tourism’ as an industry is hugely important to so many in Africa. Accounting for 10% of sub-Sahara’s GDP, it provides approximately $170bn to over 36 million people.
And the fact is that if the world continues to turn its back on African tourism there is a real danger that the very infrastructure of their markets, half a world away, will suffer beyond repair.
Even at its zenith, whilst Africa accounts for 15% of the world’s population it still only managed to take 3% of global tourism receipts – from 5% of the world’s tourist arrivals.
So in the spirit of trying to persuade whoever reads this blog to think again over a visit to Africa right here, right now – all of these photos were taken by myelf, over 5,000+ miles from the Ebola zone.
The fact being that whatever the world’s airways show us on our TV screens the landscape, flora, fauna and warm welcome I experienced when taking these shots has not altered one iota since the outbreak of Ebola.