THE outbreak of Ebola in West Africa is affecting tourist arrivals in some parts of the country even though Zimbabwe has not recorded a single case of the deadly disease.Speaking to journalists in Gweru on Saturday, Antelope Park owner Mr Andrew Conolly said there was a decrease in the number of European and American tourists visiting the country since the outbreak of the disease in March this year.
Ebola has killed over 7 500 people in West Africa and is fast spreading.
“I must admit that foreign market has dropped drastically due to the Ebola virus.
“The outbreak of the disease has affected tourism in Africa more than in living memory.
“As of now only 20 percent of our visitors are foreigners while 80 percent are locals. United States and United Kingdom used to contribute the largest number of tourists who come to the country,” he said.
As of December 21, an estimated 7 580 people died from Ebola mostly in West African countries like Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Mali.
Over 20 000 cases have been reported. Mr Conolly said the situation has been worsened by negative publicity and the current economic environment.
“The British made a travel warning and bans during the just-ended Zanu-PF congress. So such things affect business because instinctively people try to remember bad things.
“Our unstable economy has also contributed to the diminishing of the industries in recent years,” he said.
Mr Conolly applauded Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Engineer Walter Mzembi for his vision for the sector.
“I think Minister Mzembi is doing a fantastic job in trying to support and develop the tourism industry. We believe that his vision can take the tourism industry far.
“Air Zimbabwe has also taken positive steps in terms of fares in trying to promote tourism in the country. I have similar reserves in Zambia, Kenya and Tanzania that are preserving lions.
“Zimbabwe is one of the countries that have friendly and hospitable people. The environment is peaceful as compared to other countries.
“We never had any conflicts with the Government and we have complied with the Indigenisation policy,” he said.
Antelope parks breeds lions and release some into the wild in the reserve which measures about 600 hectares.