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Misconceptions about Ebola a serious concern for the travel trade

Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) said the outbreak of the virus in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and now in Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo is of immediate concern to the travel trade considering the speed at which the virus seems to be spreading.

PRETORIA – Misconceptions about the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), how the virus can be contracted and the location of the affected countries is of great concern to the local and international travel trade, says the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA).

The organisation said the outbreak of the virus in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and now in Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo is of immediate concern to the travel trade considering the speed at which the virus seems to be spreading. Its spread, particularly in the West African region is causing panic amongst travellers in South Africa’s key source markets. This is in addition to the already existing alarm in the market, ahead of the implementation of the new immigration regulations in October.

TBCSA Chief Executive Officer, Mmatsatsi Ramawela expressed sympathy with those who have been directly affected by the outbreak, saying she hoped the authorities would be able to contain the spread of the outbreak and find a cure fast enough to rescue the people in the affected countries and restore life and business to normality. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the affected families. As we mark Tourism and Heritage month here in South Africa today, we also extend our sympathies to our counterparts and colleagues in West Africa’s travel and tourism sector who are experiencing a very difficult time”.

Albeit indirect, Ramawela said the impact of the outbreak was being felt within the South African travel and tourism trade.

“It is still early for us to quantify the real impact of EVD however the perceived risk of contracting the disease amongst tourists travelling to South Africa and other parts of the continent which are not affected by the outbreak is of particular worry for us.”  She said the biggest misconception related to the geographical location of the affected countries, in relation to other countries in Africa and South Africa in particular.

Similar to other sectors, the tourism industry is taking the lead from Government in terms of dealing with the impact of the outbreak and the Council said it was satisfied that the authorities have put sufficient measures in place to curb the spread of the virus into the country. These measures include the strengthening of surveillance for viral hemorrhagic fevers at the country’s ports of entry, intensified laboratory surveillance by the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) and ensuring that health practitioners are on high alert to manage any suspected cases.

Two weeks ago, Cabinet instituted a total travel ban for all non-citizens travelling from high risk countries, unless the travel was absolutely essential.  South Africans who wished to travel to these countries were further advised to delay their travel. Tourism businesses have heeded this call, with a number of their corporate clients cutting back on non-essential travel to the affected countries and opting to use technology instead.

“On behalf of our members and the industry at large, our responsibility is to ensure that we provide relevant information to businesses and tourists, contextualising the situation to ally any concerns they may have” Ramawela said. “Information about where the affected countries are located, in relation to South Africa must be sensitively communicated since not all countries in the West Africa region are affected by EVD, and the level of risk to exposure to the virus differs from country to country.”

Alongside industry stakeholders, SA Tourism and the National Department of Tourism, the TBCSA is closely monitoring developments regarding the outbreak. “We will endeavour to provide up to date information on EVD through our website tbcsa.travel. Further information can also be sourced from the Department of Health, the World Health Organisation and other local and international channels.”

Vicky Karantzavelou
Co-Founder & Chief Editor - TravelDailyNews Media Network | Website

Vicky is the co-founder of TravelDailyNews Media Network where she is the Editor-in Chief. She is also responsible for the daily operation and the financial policy. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Tourism Business Administration from the Technical University of Athens and a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Wales.

She has many years of both academic and industrial experience within the travel industry. She has written/edited numerous articles in various tourism magazines.

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