Ebola claims affect tourism – Mzembi

ZIMBABWEANS should desist from making reckless and false statements about the alleged detection of Ebola as it tarnishes the country’s image as one of the best tourist destinations, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Engineer Walter Mzembi, has said.

This follows reports in some sections of the media last Thursday that an alleged Ebola patient from the DRC was admitted at Wilkins Infectious Diseases Hospital in Harare.

This saw Wilkins Hospital evacuating five patients who were admitted to the centre to Beatrice Infectious Diseases Hospitals and closed the centre to new patients to enable health professionals deal with the suspected Ebola case.

It, however, emerged that the Congolese woman and a student at a local college, were suffering from malaria and reports yesterday said the woman was responding well to treatment and was likely to be discharged soon.

Speaking at a dinner hosted by Traverze Travel and Tours last week, Minister Mzembi said people should not try to invite Ebola.

“Do not joke about Ebola,” he said. “Do not invite it when it is not here. Do not de-brand yourselves. Do not hate yourselves to the extent where you invite curses which are not in your midst and we had that unfortunate incident where people were passing this falsehood.”

Minister Mzembi said Ebola deaths and cases were certified by the World Health Organisation.

“They (WHO) cannot lie to you nor lie to the external travelling public,” he said.

“So if it is not here, it is not here and we must celebrate it.”

Minister Mzembi said the Government would continue to inform the travelling public on the latest developments about the contagious disease.

He said he received joint communication from the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, WHO, and the International Civil Aviation Organisation confirming that flying to Zimbabwe was safe.

In this regard, Minister Mzembi said, there was no need for people and tourists to panic or cancel their events scheduled for Zimbabwe.

The Traverse Travel and Tours dinner was organised to discuss fundamental issues affecting the tourism sector, among them the effects of the alleged Ebola cases that have been reported in the media recently, the majority of which have been dismissed by results of samples sent to South Africa for medical analysis.

The dinner drew stakeholders in the tourism sector.

Minister Mzembi said recently the African Marketing Council downgraded their meeting that was scheduled for Victoria Falls to a local event because about 300 delegates were coming from West Africa.

Minister Mzembi said Zimbabwe was equipped to detect people with Ebola at ports of entry.

He said the country should also embrace an open visa system to increase the number of tourist arrivals.

Minister Mzembi said by 2020 the world tourism sector would record $2 trillion and Zimbabwe should strive to get a better share by implementing policies that attracted tourists.

“By year 2020 we shall be receiving nearly $2 trillion globally from travel and there will be 1 500 billion travellers,” he said.

“Find a niche market share within that whole activity globally and Zimbabwe must grow on the backdrop of these statistics.

“This is why we are pushing so much daily that Zimbabwe becomes more open.

“On our visa regime we must have an open system and our skies must admit more airlines. At our peak we were doing about 48 and we are down to about 13.”

Traverze Travel and Tours managing director Ms Zodwa Mkandla, said it was also important to tap into domestic tourism, which remained largely unexploited.

“Going forward I think we are going to open a tourism department that is going to concentrate on domestic tourism, which we must promote,” she said.

Ms Mkandla said Traverze Travel and Tours would do everything to adapt to the technological changes taking place in the tourism sector.

Due to some reports that have been circulated via social media mainly by some panicking health workers, Namibia recently advised its citizens not to visit Zimbabwe, while Jamaican reggae artiste Konshens (Garfield Spence) cancelled his much-awaited Zimbabwean show due to Ebola fears.

However, Zimbabwean tourism sector has been on the rebound and recently the country was awarded 2014 World Tourism Destination by the European Union Council of Tourism and Trade for promoting eco-tourism and successfully convening the 20th session of the UN World Tourism Organisation Assembly Conference last year.

The tourism industry is targeting to grow its contribution to the GDP by 15 percent in 2015 on the basis of 3.2 million tourists expected to visit Zimbabwe, earning the country about $5 billion.

The country has also inked $3 billion deal to exploit platinum along the Great Dyke in Darwendale area, a move that has invited threats of more sanctions from the Americans.

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