Ebola Not Affecting Namibia’s Tourism Industry – Shifeta, but Market Notes ‘Heightened Fear’

The Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) yesterday said the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa is “generally” not affecting Namibia’s tourism industry.

According to Environment and Tourism Deputy Minister Pohamba Shifeta the country expects to surpass the 1.3 million visitor arrivals recorded last year.

“We hope to increase the number of visitors to Namibia to 1.5 million within the next few years, which means now we have to look at our facilities and the overall capacity of the industry,” said Shifeta.

Meanwhile, Air Namibia yesterday said it does not have recorded cancellations of bookings by passengers as a result of the Ebola outbreak in some of the West African countries.

“If there are cancellations we would not know if they are because of the Ebola outbreak,” commented Xavier Masule, the General Manager Commercial Services at Air Namibia.

In addition, Air Namibia’s spokesperson, Paul Nakawa, said: “As far as the Ebola outbreak is a concern, the situation is not alarming in the southern part of Africa where we are geographically located. Currently there are no reported cases of Ebola in Namibia. We have been collaborating from the onset with the ministry of health and we are jointly monitoring the situation going forward.”

Prevention measures which are currently in place include health forms to be completed by aircraft passengers, screening in the old airport building of all passengers from Ebola affected countries and thermal device screening by the health ministry.

However, the general manager of the tourism company, Sands of Africa, Paul Brinkmann, yesterday told New Era that the Ebola outbreak could potentially negatively impact the local industry.

“I can say that that there has been a decrease in demand, by as much as 20 percent in some instances, but this is nothing concrete. It is most likely that many tourists are being cautious because Namibia is perceived to be in West Africa by many. The Asian market, for instance, treats Africa as a country and not as a continent,” said Brinkmann.

Furthermore, the Namibian Tourism Board’s (NTB) spokesperson, Maggy Mbako, yesterday added that there is a heightened fear in the market but was quite pleased to note that “thus far there have been no reports from the private sector about cancellations due to the Ebola outbreak”.

While assuring visitors to Namibia that the country has had no reported cases of Ebola, Mbako emphasized that the NTB is in close cooperation with Air Namibia, Namibia Airports Company and the health ministry to closely monitor all incoming visitors. NTB is the government agency responsible for bringing together both the private and public sector in implementing Namibia’s national policy on tourism.

This week marks six months since the World Health Organisation (WHO) was notified of the outbreak of Ebola in Guinea. The outbreak has since evolved into the largest, most severe and most complex outbreak in the history of the disease.

According to the WHO the three most-affected countries – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – face enormous challenges in stopping transmission and providing care for all patients.

On 23 March, the WHO published formal notification of an outbreak of Ebola virus disease in Guinea on its website. On 8 August, WHO declared the epidemic to be a “public health emergency of international concern”.

Experts from the WHO now predict Ebola numbers will continue to climb exponentially, and more than 20 000 people will have been infected by early November. Although WHO was first notified of the outbreak in March 2014, investigations revealed that the outbreak started in December 2013. Between 30 December 2013 and 14 September 2014, a total of 4 507 cases were reported to WHO.

Source : New Era