It’s been reported that the outbreak of ebola in Uganda has hindered the nation’s tourism industry. Tour companies and government officials said last Wednesday that travellers were starting to cancel their plans to visit the country amid the increasing number of ebola cases. Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni appeared on TV last week to warn people to avoid physical contact and be vigilant.
Ebola is known across the globe for being deadly, but it has killed people more in Uganda. Since 2000 the nation has had four ebola outbreaks. The first year, 224 people died, while the outbreak in 2007 killed 42, and there was only one case last year. However, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the disease was first reported in the Congo in 1976, and it’s name comes from the river where it was identified.
It was nearly a month ago when the current outbreak started, and at least 16 have died, while 20 others are believed to be infected (as of last Thursday). The most affected district is Kibaale, which is in the west. This area has a national park with one of the world’s biggest primate populations, which biologists and tourists frequent. The country is also known for mountain gorillas, which is an endangered species many wealthy visitors like to see. Tour operators say the Kibaale park is well known for its diverse population of birds as well.
There hasn’t been any travel restrictions recommended for Uganda from the World Health Organisation (WHO), while the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has advised against all travel to some parts of the country. The FCO says the WHO notified it on July 29 about ebola cases that were discovered by the Ugandan Ministry of Health. Travellers should avoid the Karamoja region (except visits to Kidepo Valley National Park made by air). It also advises against road travel outside major towns at night – except for between the Entebbe airport and Kampala.
Uganda Tourism Association head Cuthbert Baguma says the outbreak comes at a particularly damaging time due to August being the peak travel seas for the nation. Uganda’s Ministry of Tourism permanent secretary Patrick Mugoya says that the presence of ebola in the country is damaging enough. The disease threatens the nation’s hopes of maximising the benefits coming mostly from travel articles. He added that they hope the situation will become under control.
Uganda Tourism Association head Amos Wekesa says that they didn’t know why people were dying in July. This was happening in a remote area of western Uganda. His tour company was getting more clients during the month than they could handle. However, after ebola was confirmed to have broken out, potential visitors from Europe began to contact him, asking if travelling there would be safe. This outbreak is dampening their opportunity for business, and their history of poverty, disease and other negatives things is letting them down. Some of the association’s members have reported a huge number of cancellations – worth millions of dollars. If the government doesn’t do any damage control, he added, many jobs will be lost.
Volcanoes Safaris agent Denis Opio says that Uganda is a popular destination because of Kibaale forest’s chimpanzees and diverse population of birds. John Hunwick, a British businessman and tour operator, says that some travellers are completely terrified and want to return home. He lost $6,000 on Tuesday alone due to cancellations. Tourists are leaving scared, and something has to be done, as other operators are seeing the same thing. He added that future bookings could be at risk.
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