Ebola Deals Body Blow to Africa’s Tourism

Diplomat East Africa - - Table of Contents -

Are­quest by Kenya’s tourism fra­ter­nity dur­ing a re­cent round­table meet­ing to Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta to ur­gently ap­point­ment a gov­ern­ment spokesman showed how badly lack of a co­her­ent pub­lic pol­icy was af­fect­ing the sec­tor.

For a sec­tor that was still reel­ing from the dev­as­tat­ing ef­fects of the ter­ror at­tacks on the coun­try, the Ebola pan­demic in West Africa has knocked it off its feet as it dev­as­tates the tourism on the whole con­ti­nent. Now poach­ing is on the rise and wildlife con­ser­va­tion in peril, say en­vi­ron­men­tal con­ser­va­tion ex­perts.

In­deed, the lack of a clear Kenya gov­ern­ment com­mu­ni­ca­tion strat­egy on what is ail­ing the tourism sec­tor was best cap­tured by num­bers. The dis­tance be­tween Nairobi and the epi­cen­tre of the Ebola out­break in West Africa is more than that from Euro­pean cap­i­tal, yet Kenya is bear­ing the brunt of the dis­ease.

Tourist ho­tels and sa­fari camps are empty, staff lay off are common and the sec­tor is fac­ing fi­nan­cial ruin, and not a sin­gle case of the dis­ease has been re­ported to date.

This has, partly to do, with the gov­ern­ment’s lack a proac­tive pol­icy in ad­dress­ing the con­cerns of the in­ter­na­tional tourist sources for Kenya. As the tourist fra­ter­nity told the head of state, “Africa is viewed as one coun­try not a con­ti­nent.”

The prob­lem is not con­fined solely to Kenya and East Africa, the en­tire sub Sa­ha­ran Africa is in the same leaky boat.

An es­ti­mated 50 per cent of ho­tel and sa­fari can­cel­la­tions in Kenya are due to Ebola fears, with ter­ror threats and the travel ad­vi­sories by Western gov­ern­ments do­ing the rest of the dam­age.

The in­crease in poach­ing and its wide me­dia cov­er­age has not helped mat­ters. And though the gov­ern­ment is re­luc­tantly to own up; the drop in tourist num­bers and re­ceipts is af­fect­ing fund­ing for wildlife pro­tec­tion.

In many re­gions through­out Africa, the mon­e­tary value of a wilder­ness re­serve is con­tin­u­ously pit­ted against the po­ten­tial rev­enue that the land could earn when it’s used for agri­cul­tural or live­stock pur­poses


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