Dam2810

Impact of Ebola on safari bookings?

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Posted (edited)

Was wondering what the impact is/will be on safari bookings in Southern Africa? Personally I would not cancel a trip in Botswana, Zimbabwe or Tanzania because of the ebola outbreak in West Africa. Would be good to hear from travel agents.

 

I read on Africageographic:

 

 

 

Thousands are cancelling trips to the big safari hubs like Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa because of the Ebola outbreak, despite the fact that these regions are so distant from the affected areas that saying one is cancelling a trip to South Africa because of an Ebola outbreak in West Africa, is like cancelling a trip to Florida because of an outbreak in Alaska.

 

 

http://www.safaribookings.com/blog/180

 

 

 

The survey showed about half of operators experienced a staggering 20 to 70% decrease in bookings. About a third reported no decrease and has been doing business as usual. The impact is more noticeable in East than in southern Africa. It is a heavy blow for the industry and the numerous wildlife reserves that rely on its revenue.

 

http://www.travelweekly.com/Travel-News/Tour-Operators/Despite-distance-Ebola-fears-have-safari-clients-hesitating/

 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/africaandindianocean/11113615/Ebola-concerns-harming-safari-bookings.html

Edited by Dam2810

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I still plan on going to Kenya next year unless something seriously changes.

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I think it has been shown that my country, the USA, is just as susceptible to ebola than African countries that are far away from those immediately affected in west Africa. But I digress. I was in Kenya 2 weeks ago and some of the management of the lodges I visited told me that they are down about 10% across the board, but the bigger issue is they aren't seeing 2015 bookings. Yet.

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I still plan on going to Kenya next year unless something seriously changes.

Me too.

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Well, I was in Kenya this September, and it was fabolous.

 

I was told in the Mara that bookings were down 40 to 50 %, and even worse at Lake Nakuru. All are fearing the next season because many had long-time-bookings which were not easy to cancel by agencies and clients (without losing money on their end). Met several people who told me they would have liked to cancel but it was not possible. (All expressed their delight that they had not cancelled, btw.) Our own guide told us he had had three10-14 day trips scheduled after us. All of those were cancelled. So, next year could be even worse.

 

Worst hit seem to be the big lodges and agencies going for the first-time or casual safari guests. Smaller, intimate lodges and camps with lots of seasoned, repeat customers or a focus on individual tourists apparently have less of a problem.

 

A friend of mine living in Nairobi told me it´s downright catastrophic at the coast. Tourism has almost totally collapsed there, many have turned to prostituion and criminalism out of despair. Which makes the situation even worse, of course.

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40-50%? Wow. That's huge. May I ask what camp(s) you stayed at?

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It was not so at my own camp (Mara Bush Camp, which was fully booked), but the manager there told me that number in regard to all the camps in the reserve, and that it would apply especially to the bigger lodges and camps. Of course I don´t know if these numbers were actually calculated by somebody or if they are just estimates.

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That may be not particularly due to the fear of Ebola? I think for Kenya - it's more the warnings for terror? Safari goers normally plan in advance a little bit and I think the major Ebola scare is only in the recent month or so.....

 

I was just very recently planning a quick getaway for mid-October; Had several choices - Tanzania seems to be badly hit too ....... For example., the camps are running good discounts at the moment (high end ones - Asilia etc etc.,) ...... but, the surcharge for flights seemed ludicrous to me. I was told by my agent that the airlines - Coastal etc etc., were caught off guard and operating flights at a loss and came up with the surcharge (some flights minimum 3 pax)

 

I agree with Michael - I would think some camps in prime locations/small scale camps will tend to be busy. Rekero; Entim etc etc., always seem to be busy.

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Of course, Hari, sorry, I forgot about the actual topic of this thread.

 

Much of the situation would be because of the security situation. But Ebola is apparently having a huge effect as well, our guide spoke of "cancellation waves" for September and later.

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I agree, Michael ...... Tanzania same story.

For example., I was looking in various options in Tanzania (I wasn't sure if I could travel or not at that point) ....... Towards the end of September there were some dates for October where I was not able to get a room. When I was finally making actual plans, those dates cleared up!

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Personally I think it would be crazy to book a long way in advance, as seems to be the norm with safaris. Iam planning my first trip for 2015 but will make a last minute booking a month or so before I plan to go, regardless of some agents telling me everything will be fully booked so I better book now. I will take the risk and book last minute..next year is too uncertain as to what will happen over there, and would safari goers get their deposits back if things did get bad over there..

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Personally I think it would be crazy to book a long way in advance, as seems to be the norm with safaris. Iam planning my first trip for 2015 but will make a last minute booking a month or so before I plan to go, regardless of some agents telling me everything will be fully booked so I better book now. I will take the risk and book last minute..next year is too uncertain as to what will happen over there, and would safari goers get their deposits back if things did get bad over there..

@@RichB Because of Ebola?

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Personally I think it would be crazy to book a long way in advance, as seems to be the norm with safaris. Iam planning my first trip for 2015 but will make a last minute booking a month or so before I plan to go, regardless of some agents telling me everything will be fully booked so I better book now. I will take the risk and book last minute..next year is too uncertain as to what will happen over there, and would safari goers get their deposits back if things did get bad over there..

 

Ah yes ....... for a first time safari - absolutely a great idea!!! It;s Africa and everything is going to feel awesome .............

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when i was checking rates for Kenya for my Feb trip in the last month or so, i found it odd that despite the agents reporting huge cancellations, i was still quoted pretty high rates. so perhaps @@RichB may do well by making a decision at the last minute.

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I will book my safari maybe 2 months before I plan to go..If that particular safari is fully booked then I will choose another safari..With all the increasing chaos going on in the world now, I feel it is unwise

and very risky to make a commitment financially to a particular location / safari.

 

Madaboutcheetah : Can you elaborate on your comment ?

Ah yes ....... for a first time safari - absolutely a great idea!!! It;s Africa and everything is going to feel awesome .............

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Thank you all for your answers. it is sad for the tourism industry but on the positive side for us, at least we should get nice discounts after years of constant and significant increases. I think it makes sense to book as late as possible. Safarilovers will continue to go to Africa but lots of 1st time goers will probably postpone their plans to visit Africa for a while

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@@RichB - if it's your first time safari - everything will feel totally mesmerizing when you are on safari. It doesn't matter where you end up going - you are (most likely) to have an amazing time - barring some bizarre instances ........ Once you've been on a few safaris and/or have certain specific interests then you might be picky wrt where you go and what you do so it may make more sense to book in advance to get what you want.

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http://www.npr.org/blogs/goatsandsoda/2014/09/09/345871678/you-wont-catch-ebola-from-a-giraffe-in-tanzania

 

Here is an excellent article on ebola and traveling to safari countries in Africa.

 

The way I see it… there is an Ebola patient in Texas right now (or two of them perhaps?). There are none in all the "safari countries" in Africa.

 

The sensible thing to do would be to get the heck out of the U.S. and go on safari.

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Benson expressed his concern that Ebola could be transmitted across borders into Zim via the trucks shuttling between countries. But, everyone I spoke to said that tourism in Zim, and at Vic Falls was increasing exponentially year after year.

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Great thread idea. I am trying to get a group together for next year and Ebola seems to be a popular concern. Might be tough to get it going next year :(

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when i was checking rates for Kenya for my Feb trip in the last month or so, i found it odd that despite the agents reporting huge cancellations, i was still quoted pretty high rates. so perhaps @@RichB may do well by making a decision at the last minute.

 

I experienced the same thing. It's surprising how the laws of supply and demand don't seem to apply to some of the higher end camps in Kenya. It seems like some camps would rather be mostly empty and still charge the few visitors top dollar. Other camps do seem to be offering stay three/pay two discounts, etc.

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Of course it’s very difficult to predict the future with absolute certainty but when you’re planning a trip to any country what you can do (very easily now thanks to the web) is lots of research and read up on the political situation in the country and the wider region. Or in this case read up on the Ebola virus and then make an informed judgement on what may or may not happen in the near future. At present the risk from Ebola in Eastern or Southern Africa is zero but in 5 months or maybe 10 months when you’re hoping to be on safari in Kenya or Zambia or wherever what will the risk be then?

 

If you book a safari for next year now could you find that when the time comes you have to cancel to avoid putting your life at risk from Ebola, the short answer in my view is no.

 

Here’s a rather longer answer

 

Two of the great fears with regard to Ebola both concern the possibility that the disease could become airborne albeit in two different ways. The virus is spread through contact with an infected person’s (or animal’s) bodily fluids but it’s not an airborne virus in the sense that the common cold or flu. It’s not spread via aerosol droplets that can travel significant distances when someone coughs or sneezes and are also produced just when they talk or exhale and that can be carried much further by air conditioning and ventilation systems. However it is theoretically possible that it could mutate and become airborne leading to an even more catastrophic infection and death rate. The other more immediate fear however is that someone infected with the virus could board an international flight potentially spreading Ebola around the world.

 

The first of these fears is I suspect for the moment really just science-fiction, yes the virus could mutate and become truly airborne but (I think) the chances of this actually happening are really pretty slim, yes some scientists are talking about this as a theoretical possibility but really this danger is being hyped up by the media. As for the second fear that someone with Ebola could board an international flight well as I'm sure everyone is aware this has now already happened twice.

 

In the first case a Liberian American citizen Patrick Sawyer was visiting his family in Liberia; his sister became ill with Ebola he tried to look after her but inevitably she died, after the funeral he decided to return to the US via Nigeria By the time he boarded the flight he was already ill and while on the plane was suffering from diarrhoea and vomiting so quite why he was allowed on I’m not sure although these could be symptoms of other more familiar diseases like malaria. Before long the plane landed in Lagos one of the world’s largest cities with a population of close to eighteen million people in Africa’s most populous country.

 

A passenger plane carrying an infectious Ebola victim landing in one of the world’s megacities everyone’s worst nightmare had just begun. If the virus got loose in the city many millions of people could potentially die and who knows where else it might spread to as Lagos is a major transport hub.

 

Of course as soon as it became clear that Mr Sawyer was most likely suffering from Ebola the authorities were immediately notified and on landing he was transferred to straight to hospital and quarantined. The 281 people that may have come into contact with him were identified and tracked down and every one of those people given strict instructions to provide twice daily updates on their state of health to the health authorities. As a result of this strategy known as contact tracing there have been just 20 cases and only eight deaths including the unfortunate Mr Sawyer. If the Nigerians really have been successful in containing the outbreak and no new cases are identified then on the 20th of October the WHO will declare the country Ebola free.

 

In the second case another Liberian American Thomas Eric Duncan flew from Monrovia to Brussels and then on to Washington and Texas. While Mr Sawyer was already ill when he boarded his flight Mr Duncan was not, Ebola has an incubation period of from 2 days to 3 weeks during this time before the onset of symptoms a person with Ebola is not infectious. Since Mr Duncan was not showing any symptoms and was not aware that he was sick although he possibly may have lied when asked if he’d had any contact with Ebola victims there was really no reason to stop him from flying. It was only when he was back home in Texas five days after landing in the US that the first symptoms started to appear and that he realised that he was ill, he went to see a doctor informing them that he had just returned from Liberia however instead of major alarm bells going off they sent him home with a dose of antibiotics. These of course had no effect and he soon became seriously ill and had to be taken by ambulance to the hospital on the way he was vomiting inside the ambulance potentially exposing the crew to the virus. All of the people that he came in to contact with are being monitored which in this case is only 50 because he was not infectious when he was flying and so far none of them are showing signs of having Ebola. The unfortunate Mr Duncan’s prognosis does not look that good because unfortunately supplies of the experimental vaccine have run out so he may well die. Only nine of the people he had contact with are believed to be at serious risk, had Mr Duncan been admitted to hospital immediately and not sent home none of these people would be in any danger at all. They won’t make the same mistake again and if any of them do become ill they will be quarantined so there is no risk of the disease spreading further.

 

What Texas can learn from Nigeria when it comes to containing Ebola

 

Back in Africa a man from Guinea crossed over the border into Senegal and was found to have Ebola so far there have been no other cases in Senegal.

 

What these cases show is that Ebola can be contained without too much difficulty and that the fear that Ebola could turn in to some kind of apocalyptic global pandemic wiping out half the human race as tabloid newspapers, novelists and Hollywood movies would have us believe is largely unfounded. They show that this fear too is also very largely just science fiction.

 

Two of the countries at the epicentre of this outbreak Liberia and Sierra Leone are extremely poor and have only recently emerged from many years if civil war it is no surprise that they have failing health care systems completely incapable of controlling this crisis which is rapidly spiralling out of control. The situation is going to get a lot worse before it finally gets better, soon the infection and death rate will pass into the tens of thousands and could conceivably in the worst case scenario pass into the hundreds of thousands threatening these countries with total collapse then I can see that there is a very real risk that the virus will spread into neighbouring countries, unless the borders can be completely sealed. When everyone around you seems to be dying you’re going to want to flee and get as far away as possible so it’s not hard to imagine Ebola refugees crossing in to neighbouring countries and spreading the virus further. I wouldn’t personally consider booking a trip for next year going to Guinea Bissau, Mali, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Burkina Faso or Senegal just to be on the safe side because I think if the epidemic really does get many times worse than it already is then there is a real risk of the virus spreading to these countries. Though having said I don’t actually think I would be putting myself at huge risk if I did decide to visit one of these countries next year, but one doesn’t know what other problems might arise if there is a new outbreak.

 

Would I be concerned about booking a trip for next year to anywhere in Eastern Africa, Southern Africa or even Central Africa?

 

No absolutely not and certainly not because of Ebola. Kenya has banned all flights from the three most effected countries though of course this just means there are no direct flights so someone determined to reach Nairobi could fly via somewhere else. Even so I think the risk of someone with Ebola flying to Kenya is pretty small and even if this does eventually happen, the authorities should be able to contain the virus easily enough following Nigeria’s example. In the unlikely event that there is a small outbreak in Kenya (or other safari countries) I don’t think that I as a safari tourist would be in any real danger at all certainly not when out in the bush. So if I was booked to go on a safari in Kenya and I learnt that there were one or more confirmed cases at a hospital in Nairobi would I cancel my trip, no I wouldn’t. If there were hundreds of cases then yes, but that’s extremely unlikely, Kenya despite all it's faults doesn't have all the problems that Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia have that have allowed the Ebola outbreak to become out of control there.

 

In Central Africa there is in fact an ongoing and entirely unrelated outbreak of Ebola in the DRC so far they’ve had 70 cases and 42 deaths but it’s likely that they will soon have the situation under control as they have previous experience dealing with Ebola. This outbreak is unlikely to spread to neighbouring countries and I have no plans to visit the DRC just yet, so this doesn’t worry me at all.

 

The Times newspaper and other papers reported recently that there is a 50% chance that someone infected with Ebola could fly into the UK in the next three weeks and in France there is a 75% chance, so maybe I should avoid visiting London or Paris for the foreseeable future. Both cities are a good deal closer to the effected countries than anywhere in Eastern or Southern Africa and there are many more flights from West Africa coming here. Indeed a chart in the following report on the Channel 4 News website suggests that the chances of Ebola being imported into Kenya is only about half that of it being brought into the UK, so perhaps I'd be safer to move to Kenya than stay here.

 

Where will the deadly Ebola virus strike next?

 

Our health systems may be much better than those in Africa but there is still a real risk that there could be a small outbreak here or in France especially if doctors make the same mistake as in Dallas and send an infected person home telling them they have the flu which is quite possible as we are entering the flu season. The risk of a small outbreak in London or somewhere else in the UK is if anything greater than the risk in most of Eastern or Southern Africa, Heathrow Airport after all is one of the world’s major transport hubs. Do I expect to learn that there has been a significant drop in tourists visiting the UK because of Ebola? No I don’t not unless an actual case is reported. If there is a case here, would I be worried no not really, an English nurse William Pooley brought back from Sierra Leone with Ebola was successfully treated by the NHS and has fully recovered without infecting anyone else. Besides I’m not a nurse or a doctor so my chances of coming into contact with someone suffering from Ebola here or for that matter in Africa or anywhere else in the world are in my view next to nonexistent.

 

After writing this I heard about the case of the nurse in Spain who now has Ebola after treating one of the two Spanish priests who were flown back from Liberia with the disease, this is a cause for concern because the hospital does not as yet know what went wrong and how she contracted it. However I am confident that they will contain it and that there will not be an actual outbreak in Spain, it is still a worry but it hasn’t changed my overall view that the risk is minimal. Channel 4 News here just described this as an outbreak, is one infected person, three people under close observation one of whom has now tested negative and twenty one people being monitored really an outbreak?

 

There is just way too much hysteria and scaremongering about this disease, ignore the hysterical ranting of the ill informed, the conspiracy theorists, the people who believe that this one case in Texas could wipe out half of America and it’s all Obama’s fault. Or that flights should be stopped from the whole of Africa when there have only been serious outbreaks in four countries and cases in two others out of the fifty five African countries. Or that we should spend even more time stuck at airports so that millions of uninfected people can be tested for signs of the disease in order to try and stop the tiny number of people that will be infected from getting through. As the case of Mr Duncan in America illustrates there’s no point in only testing people arriving direct from West Africa, you’d have to test all arriving passengers coming from anywhere on the assumption that they might have started their journey in an effected country. How long would that take? What would it cost? And more importantly would it work? Most probably not if an infected passenger is not symptomatic they most likely won’t be detected. I am afraid there will undoubtedly be a few more cases in Europe and in America but we shouldn’t panic about this, even though I’m only a layman I am confident that this won’t lead to serious outbreaks. We know how to control this disease, if patients are properly quarantined and all of their contacts traced and monitored and the doctors and nurses treating them have the proper protective clothing and follow the correct procedures and if infected bodily fluids are cleaned up using bleach which kills the virus then new outbreaks can and will be prevented.

 

I hope that when there is no outbreak in Dallas people will realise that their fears were very largely unfounded, but I doubt it I suspect they’ll just assume that America has had a very narrow escape.

 

To put things in perspective since the start of this crisis around 3,000 people have now died from Ebola yet within the same time period perhaps 300,000 people have died from malaria.

 

On a separate issue related to the downturn in tourist numbers in East Africa the Somali Army and AU troops have apparently captured the town of Barawe al Shabab’s last stronghold on the Somali coast. I suppose in the short term this could possibly increase the threat of terrorism in Kenya and Uganda but in the long term it is very good news.

 

Somali troops 'capture key port town' from al-Shabab

 

I hope soon that I will be reading about both the end of the Ebola crisis and the defeat of al Shabab and then perhaps tourist numbers will return to normal.

 

Personally I see no reason not to book now, but if numbers really are down then I suppose it doesn’t matter if you don’t and maybe if you hold of you might get a better deal.

 

Having said all of this we should still all be very concerned about Ebola but are concern should be reserved for those countries and people that are currently being devastated by this awful disease and not for hypothetical problems that could occur in countries that don’t have Ebola and very likely never will.

 

Ebola: Mapping the outbreak

 

Ebola virus: busting the myths

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Absolutely excellent analysis, thank you Inyathi. :)

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it is just in west Africa and likely to stay there

 

perhaps some people are being over cautious, something which does not apply to Bali after 2 tourist targetted terrorist bombings

 

great analysis Inyathi

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"Having said all of this we should still all be very concerned about Ebola but are concern should be reserved for those countries and people that are currently being devastated by this awful disease and not for hypothetical problems that could occur in countries that don’t have Ebola and very likely never will"

 

Here, Here @@inyathi.

 

I read an article about all the number of orphans Ebola is creating, it was heartbreaking. I know aids, malaria and other diseases also create this problem, but the intensity of the Ebola outbreak within concentrated populations in West Africa will affect generations to come. Having visited Rwanda it reminds me of the intense loss of life there, whole communitie dessimated, allbeit in very different circumstances. I hope developed countries step up efforts to support West Africa now and in the future. The road to recovery is not yet in sight for these counties and it will be a long journey indeed.

 

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