Ebola ‘misinformation’ hits tourism

Ebola ‘misinformation’ hits tourism
By admin


A British tourism expert says ignorance about the geography of Africa and panic caused by misinformation has led to tourism in Ebola-free countries being brought to its knees.

Dr Marina Novelli, reader in the School of Sport and Service Management at the University of Brighton, took a group of students to the Gambia, West Africa, which is not affected by Ebola and does not border countries where thousands have died from the disease.

She said the outbreak has brought tourism in the country to its knees and is threatening hundreds of businesses and thousands of jobs.

"I want to appeal to everyone to spread the word," she said.

"This country is open for business and is not affected by the Ebola outbreak – otherwise I would not have travelled there."

Ms Novelli was in the country working on tourism and sport capacity building projects.

"It broke our hearts seeing the industry on its knees; hotels closing and staff being laid off as a result of tourists' cancellations and tour operators reducing scheduled flights," she said.

"This is all due to ignorance about the geography of Africa and panic caused by misinformation.

"The Gambia is shielded within Senegal and both countries are Ebola-free.

"Air links with countries affected by Ebola have been suspended as they have in many other parts of the world.

"The UK government itself has declared the Gambia to be Ebola-free, but spreading this message is proving incredibly difficult, and businesses and people here are suffering as a result."

Ms Novelli said tourism was about 65 per cent down since last year and charter flight arrivals as of November this year, the start of the high season, were about half what they were last year.

"Some hotels have closed and those which have remained open are doing their very best to keep staff on rota, but there is uncertainty about what is going to happen in the next few months," she said.

"Anecdotal evidence shows that every person employed in tourism usually supports between seven and 10 people, so the reality is that the impact on an economy which relies so heavily on tourism is dramatic.

"Generally, people will rely on the support of their families but because so many people depend on tourism the intrinsic impact is difficult to measure.

"Families are already suffering hardship and businesses are at risk, and this is a tragedy that is worsening and unfolding before our eyes."

Ms Novelli said only Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia have been significantly affected by the current Ebola outbreak to date.

"Ask yourself, if the Ebola virus had spread to Italy would people be frightened to travel to the nearby UK? Probably not," she said

"Africa is a huge continent and there is absolutely no reason not to travel to non-affected West African destinations.

"Whether you are travellers, tourists, educators or experts in aspects of development, I urge everyone to keep informed and to continue travelling to countries like The Gambia.

"The Gambian tourism industry and the Gambian people need us all."

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