By DEAN HORVATH
Looking an elephant in the eye, courtesy of Camp Jabulani in South Africa.
Why in the world would anyone want to plan a trip to Africa right now? You’re probably thinking that you might catch Ebola.
But you’re wrong.
- Most people forget the fact that Madrid, Paris and London are all closer to the Ebola stricken areas than South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania.
- They also forget that all major tourist destinations in Africa have banned travel from the affected areas.
- And don’t forget that there have been no cases of Ebola in any of the primary safari and tourist destinations, including South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya.
In Fact, Now Is The Best Time To Go
I’ve just returned from a travel conference in Morocco and the talk of African travel companies is all about how Ebola is hurting their business.
The outlook for African travel in 2015 is dismal. African hotels and guides are preparing for a devastating year with early bookings down 30-70%. I’ve even noticed it myself with a dramatic drop in our own African inquiries.
The Unintended Consequences
Tourism directly funds the fight against poaching. Photo courtesy Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters.
African tourism affects much more than just their economy, so unfortunately there are consequences for postponing your safari.
Public and private game parks depend on tourism dollars to fund their fight against poaching. Over 35,000 elephants were killed last year for their tusks and the rhino population in Africa is down 97.6% since 1960.
Conservation parks are locked in an endless battle against poachers. Even in regular years, the Africa Wildlife Foundation says that “at the current poaching rates, elephants, rhinos and other iconic African wildlife may be gone within our lifetime.”
And this was before Ebola.
When there’s no tourism money to fund anti-poaching, the rate of the slaughter increases dramatically.
Ten Elephants. Ten Days. One Park.
Unemployed tourism workers are forced to find an income any way they can.
In Kenya’s 20,000-acre Naboisho Conservancy, country manager Gerard Beaton has already seen the consequences of the decline in tourists.
“We lost 10 elephants in as many days here in the Mara during October (2014). The situation is serious.”
They Have to Feed Their Families
Safari camps and lodges can’t afford to remain fully staffed when they don’t have guests. They have no choice but to let go of the most vulnerable in their workforce.
But the newly unemployed still need to put food on the table, so many of them look to poaching as the only way they can earn.
“An increase in poaching happens when people who are dependent on tourism for their livelihood have to find other ways to survive,” explains Ashish Sanghrajka, the president of Big Five Tours & Expeditions. “Tragically, the easiest means of making quick money is the poaching of endangered species—especially elephant and rhino—which in turn affects the entire ecosystem.” You can read the full article here.
It’s a Mistake to Wait
On safari with &Beyond.
Although the facts show that it’s perfectly safe to travel to the tourist areas of Africa right now, I’m still hearing from some clients that they would like to wait until after Ebola blows over.
But what is a safari if there are no more elephants and rhinos left to see?
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What do you think? Would you travel to Africa in 2015? Let me know below!