Tourists on safari watch a family group of elephants as they cross a road with Mount Kilimanjaro in the distance.In the wake of the Ebola epidemic causing wildlife tourism bookings to drop precipitously in countries as far away from the outbreak as Kenya, a coalition of safari companies announced today that they will ease their cancellation policies and even waive cancellation fees in the unlikely event of an Ebola outbreak in the countries in which they operate.

According to safaribookings.com, this collective action shows the companies are confident the threat of an Ebola outbreak in major safari countries is minor, and they are willing to back up that confidence with amended policies.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) applauds this brave move.

Conditions of each amended policy differ, but the broader context is largely the same: Cancellation fees would be waived if the amended policy is enacted, with most companies offering a full refund. Some companies offer the option to postpone a trip at no extra cost. Others offer both.

The amended cancellation policies will be enacted under two conditions:

  1. The World Health Organization declares an Ebola outbreak in the specified country for the period a client would visit and/or
  2. the US, or one of the larger European countries, issues a Level 3 travel warning against all but essential travel.

All safari companies strongly advise purchasing adequate travel insurance before booking a trip, as those would cover airfare as well. In the unlikely event of an outbreak, safari companies would require clients to issue a claim with their insurance company first.

This initiative comes on the heels of safaribookings.com’s recent survey of 500 safari companies, which shows that half are coping with staggering declines of 20 to 70 percent in bookings due to Ebola fears.

I can confirm that Kenya’s tourism industry is reeling from a combination of Ebola fears and security incidents at our coast.

This ultimately does not bode well for animals. Lower tourism arrivals directly affect crucial conservation/anti-poaching efforts.

For instance, the Kenya Wildlife Service has had to decrease their operational budget this month by 30 percent due to such a drop in an assortment of revenues and that undoubtedly means less preparedness for anti-poaching.

Related: Sierra Leone chimps need help in the wake of Ebola outbreak

IFAW continues to work in south and east Africa as part of our work to rescue and protect animals, and we continue to promote ecotourism in African countries as a sustainable animal protection measure.

If you have plans to travel to Africa for a safari, we encourage you to book one especially given the new cancellation policies.

While we have always recommended that visitors exercise caution when traveling, especially by heeding official country warnings and WHO declarations, there is no need to pander to fear mongering, especially given the grave effects on wildlife safety and survival.

–SN

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Article source: IFAW

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