HomeNews15 buyers skip tourism expo over Ebola scare

15 buyers skip tourism expo over Ebola scare

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AT least 15 buyers from Botswana have withdrawn from next month’s tourism expo while the African Marketing Summit scheduled for Victoria Falls has been postponed as the country pays the price of “reckless statements” on the Ebola disease.

TARISAI MANDIZHA / RICHARD MUPONDE

Last month, government said it had no capacity to conduct tests to detect the deadly Ebola disease with officials in the Health and Child Care ministry saying specimens from suspected cases would be referred to South African laboratories for verification.

Speaking at the Sanganai/Hlanganani-World Tourism Expo breakfast meeting in Harare yesterday, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority chief executive Karikoga Kaseke said Zimbabwe was expecting between 150 and 200 buyers to come for the expo, but a number of tourists had since cancelled.

The first edition of the re-positioned Sanganai/ Hlanganani will be held from October 16 to 18 this year at the Harare International Conference Centre.

“Botswana has withdrawn including the Botswana Tourism Board because of the Ebola issues. There is an article saying Zimbabwe is not serious about Ebola. I don’t blame them, I blame us,” Kaseke said.

“Fifteen buyers have withdrawn saying they heard that Zimbabwe is not serious about Ebola. So I think this is just reckless statements from those issuing them not knowing what they are causing to the industry.”

Hosts of the African Marketing Summit, the Africa Marketing Confederation (AMC), confirmed yesterday that next month’s meeting had been postponed.

“It has been postponed, but not cancelled,” secretary-general Gillian Rusike said yesterday.

Kaseke said the country will have more than 100 buyers coming from the Sanganai/Hlanganani-World Tourism Expo for 2014.

He said Zimbabwe was more than serious as compared to any other countries in the region as far as Ebola was concerned.

Ebola has wreaked havoc in West Africa with Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Liberia the most affected countries.

As of September 10, the World Health Organisation and the Centre for Disease Control reported a total of 4 846 suspected cases and
2 375 deaths (2 898 cases and 1 386 deaths being laboratory confirmed).

Experts say the official figures substantially understate the size of the outbreak because of families’ widespread reluctance to report cases.

Tourism stakeholders, however, suggested that there was need for the ministry to meet with the Botswana delegation to persuade them to reconsider their position. Stakeholders said the Ministry of Health and Child Care should call for an urgent Press briefing on Zimbabwe’s state of preparedness on Ebola.

Zimbabwe had won the bid to host the AMC summit last year after successfully co-hosting the United Nations World Tourism Organisation general assembly in Victoria Falls.

It was going to run under the theme Making Africa a Better Business Giant Through Marketing from October 15 to 18.

Employers’ Association for Tourism and Safari Operators president Clement Mukwasi also confirmed the postponement of the summit.

“It’s a sad development. Bookings have obviously been affected.
Conferences have in the past brought us good business and we were looking forward to a huge harvest again. This conference would have impacted significantly on our season’s arrivals,” said Mukwasi.

However, he said with Ebola fears, cancellation of the conference was a good step in fighting the disease because an outbreak in the resort town was potentially going to affect Victoria Falls as a tourism destination.

“It’s a necessary step in the right direction of fighting Ebola. One has to balance the immediate loss versus potential effect on the destination if the disease is detected here,” Mukwasi said.

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