WHILE the Ebola outbreak is thousands of kilometres and six hours by flight away from South Africa, the deadly disease is adversely impacting tourism there as travellers are avoiding the exotic destination.
Cooper Huang, CEO, Malaysian Harmony Tours & Travel, said: “People have cancelled travel to South Africa in September and October due to the fear factor. There is no point shouting about the destination when there is little demand.”
Dynasty Travel Singapore’s marketing communications director, Alicia Seah, said: “Although the distance between West and South Africa is quite far, travellers are opting not to (go) to these destinations if they have a choice, especially for leisure holidays.”
According to her, bookings to the traditionally popular South Africa have dipped by half for the year-end holiday period.
Kim Nixon, managing director at Asia of Africa Safaris, on the other hand, was more optimistic. Since the outbreak, her business has declined by only five per cent, largely in East Africa, and there have been “few cancellations” in South Africa.
Cherry Lee, executive director of Pacific World Travel, GSA for South African Airways in Malaysia, said: “We are trying to educate the travel trade in Malaysia that South Africa is far from the West African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, and it is safe to travel there. Due to misconceptions, Malaysian travellers are avoiding South Africa, thinking it is close to West Africa.”
Thinta Zwane, first secretary, South African High Commission Singapore, said: “Potential travellers to South Africa should feel free to (visit) because Ebola has not spread into our country. We have put in place measures that could easily help us deal with any Ebola scare; there is no reason potential tourists should worry about contracting this virus in South Africa.”
According to South African Tourism Board’s latest media release issued on September 8, the South African National Department of Health has assured that there are no cases of Ebola in South Africa, but the country will remain on high alert for any potential threat or infection.
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Additional report from Paige Lee Pei Qi