While Liberia sits on the western seaboard of Africa, bordering the Atlantic Ocean, travel operators to East Africa and Southern Africa are seeing business plummet. Nairobi, Kenya, is more than 3,000 miles from the nearest source of Ebola contact and yet is suffering from misconceptions that lump all areas of the continent together as if it were one country.
Ebola is not only affecting the health of populations in three West African countries, it is taking a toll on many of the economies on the continent in making travel to Africa and tourism operations there synonymous with exposure to the virus.
“Some of our biggest challenges for us are the perceptions of Africa and geographic ignorance. Africa is not a country but a very large continent. While the outbreak of Ebola remains restricted to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, travel to East Africa is affected,” said Eddie Bergman, executive director for the Africa Travel Association, a New York-based tourism advocacy arm with travel agents, tour operators, airlines and African tourism ministers as members. “We are preparing for an upcoming congress in Uganda and fielding questions and concerns about Ebola – and these are from people who know Africa and sell it.”
While the news of the virus is a fast-moving train and making international headlines every day, certain facts remain. Direct contact with an affected person, alive or deceased, is necessary in order to contract the disease, say experts, who also stress that Ebola is not an airborne virus. And even if direct contact is somehow made (most tourists do not hang around hospitals or morgues, hopefully) the concern can be neutralized with chlorine disinfection, heat, direct sunlight, soaps and detergents, experts add.
Ghana and the Cape Verde archipelago of the West African coast may have the most robust tourism activity of that area, and Ghana has had to cancel all international meetings in Accra. Even trading vessels are hesitant to stop in these parts as crews are scarce and contact fear is high.
SOURCE: Lark Gould
The Washington Times