One of the most talked-about media stories of 2014 was the Ebola outbreak. With the help of media outlets, Americans have become terrified the disease is going to sweep the nation. In a seemingly natural course of events, Westerners have all but cut off any travel to Africa.
This has caused a significant decrease in attendance on safaris, one of Africa’s most lucrative tourism industries. Despite minimal chance of exposure to Ebola while in safari countries, many safari companies have experienced a heavy drop in attendance. According to a survey conducted by popular Safari Bookings’ website, more than half of the 500 companies interviewed have reported a decline of 20-70% in bookings since the Ebola outbreak.
Murtaza Hasanie of Authentic African Safaris is one of those safari tour companies affected by the Ebola hype. “There’s plenty of news out there reporting the Ebola scare, but hardly any news giving relief to tourism countries like Tanzania, which has been unaffected by the outbreak” Murtaza states.
While Murtaza and other safari operators know it’s important to be informed and cautious, the probability of contracting Ebola while traveling to Tanzania is minimal. What many Westerners don’t realize is that most safari countries are on the opposite side of the continent from where the outbreak has taken place. Many Americans view Africa as one country instead of an entire continent, which leads to fear of travel to anywhere in Africa despite the significant geographical distance between the outbreak and the countries known for safari travel.
Some media outlets have attempted to put the reality of the outbreak into perspective for Americans. Vox Media released a list of dangers that pose a stronger threat to Americans than contracting Ebola. This list includes terrorism, the flu, World War III, traffic accidents and heart disease. These items all pose a much more relevant daily threat to Americans than contracting Ebola while traveling to countries like Tanzania in East Africa.
“Risk of Ebola in while on safari in Tanzania is just a total HYPE!” says Murtaza Hasanie of Authentic African Safaris. “You are as likely to contract Ebola in New York as you are in Tanzania” he continued.
The distance from the Ebola outbreak area to Tanzania is about the same distance as the Ebola outbreak area to New York City. The top safari countries (Tanzania, Kenya, Botswana) are more than 3,000 miles away from the Ebola-stricken countries (Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia). In addition, many precautions have been taken by authorities and safari employees to make sure visitors are as safe as possible. Such precautions include border entry points and preventative screening at international airports.
Murtaza wants to stress to potential travelers that Ebola “is a scary disease and should be taken seriously. But outside West Africa, the real risk for travelers is, effectively, zero.”
Another facet of the ‘hype’ is that the Ebola outbreak is coming to an end. As of January 18th 2015, the outbreak of Ebola in Mali has ended, according to Malian authorities and the World Health Organization. Yet, this hasn’t been reported on nearly as much as the initial outbreak.
While it is smart to be cautious, don’t let the fear of contracting Ebola keep you from traveling to Tanzania. The hype that has surrounded Ebola is just that: hype. Tanzania is full of natural wonders and adventures to be had free from exposure of the Ebola outbreak.
Murtaza Hasanie of Authentic African Safaris, as well as hundreds of other safari tour companies affected by the Ebola hype, hope that westerners get reassurance and facts about the outbreak, so they can continue to feel safe booking their next safari adventure.