Tourists arrive at the Moi International Airport, Mombasa in this photo taken on September 27, 2014. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Tourists to Ebola prone countries allowed to postpone travel

Tour companies operating in 21 African countries have introduced an initiative to give tourists flexibility to travel following the outbreak of the Ebola virus disease in some nations in West Africa.

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The initiative allows tourists to postpone their travel for up to 12 months without cancelling their bookings.

The tourists will also get a full refund of their bookings in case there is an Ebola outbreak in the country they intend to visit.

This means that a tourist who had been booked for travel can postpone the trip for up to a year at no extra cost.

According to Mr Wouter Vergeer, the Managing Director of Safaribooking.com, an online platform for 1,154 tour companies, the initiative will restore tourists’ confidence and enable the companies stay afloat.

DECLINE BOOKINGS

In a statement posted on the company’s website, Mr Vergeer said results from a recent survey they conducted showed that tour companies in eastern and southern Africa have experienced a decrease of between 20 per cent and 70 per cent in bookings following the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

“The results showed that half of the 500 safari companies surveyed are coping with a staggering 20-70 per cent decline in bookings,” he said.

There has been a lot of misinformation on the spread of Ebola in Africa sparking fears among foreign tourists.

In the survey, tour operators reported that many tourists view Africa as a single country when it comes to risk assessment.

“The Ebola risk in eastern and southern Africa, where the major safari countries are located, is just as low as elsewhere in the world. These countries are at least 4,800 km away from the outbreak area; Europe and South America are closer,” he said.

Mr Vergeer stated that countries frequented by tourists have put in place measures such as screening visitors at points of entry to avoid the spread of the virus.

“All safari countries have strict precautionary measures in place, comparable to the US and Europe. The disease is frightening and should be taken very seriously. But outside of the outbreak area, the real risk for travellers is effectively zero,” said Mr Vergee.

CANCELLATION FEE WAIVER

So far, 21 tour companies operating in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Congo and Seychelles and one in the United States have introduced the cancellation fee waiver.

Asilia Camps and Lodges Safaris is one of the companies in Kenya that has adopted the initiative and its country director Mr Gerard Beaton, said the initiative will enable local tour operators stay afloat

“We decided to give people flexibility so that they are not under pressure to travel when the dates of their bookings approach,” he said.

Mr Beaton said he was confident that the Ebola virus will be contained within the next six months and will not be a big threat.

“We decided not to take a hard-line approach as the industry has been affected since the Ebola outbreak. This move will keep support of our clients,” he said.

He said they adopted the cancellation fee waiver policy three weeks ago and has been well received by travel agencies and clients.

Credit: Daily Nation   

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