Ebola fears have hit the African safari industry hard. A September report showed that half of the 500 safari companies surveyed are coping with a staggering 20-70% decline in bookings.
Several leading safari companies responded to these unfounded fears by easing their cancellation policy.
The exact conditions of each policy differ, but the broader context is largely the same. The amended cancellation policy will be enacted if:
A. The World Health Organization declares an Ebola outbreak in the safari country and for the period a client would visit.
B. The US, or one of the larger European countries, issues a level 3 travel warning against all but essential travel.
All cancellation fees are 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. All safari companies strongly advise purchasing adequate travel insurance before booking a trip. In the unlikely event of an outbreak, they'll require clients to issue a claim with their insurance company first.
List of safari companies with amended cancellation policies
Safaribookings.com, a comparison website for safari tours, published a list of safari companies with amended cancellation policies. The list is comprised of large accommodation chains, such as Wilderness Safaris, Asilia Africa and Great Plains Conservation, as well as specialized tour operators, such as Wild Wings Safaris and eTrip Africa. Full details of the amended policies for most companies are included in the list. SafariBookings will keep the list current and include any new safari company that amends its cancellation policy.
The list can be found at www.safaribookings.com/blog/200
The Ebola risk for travelers is effectively zero
The Ebola risk in eastern and southern Africa, where the major safari countries are located, is just as low as elsewhere in the world. These countries are at least 3,000 miles / 4.800 km away from the outbreak area; Europe and South America are closer. All safari countries have strict precautionary measures in place, comparable to the US and Europe. Furthermore, people don't just get Ebola. The virus is not airborne and only spreads if people come in contact with the bodily fluids —such as blood, sweat or saliva— of an infected person. Ebola doesn't spread until an infected person gets sick and shows symptoms, such as extreme vomiting, severe headaches or high fevers.
The disease is frightening and should be taken very seriously. But outside of the outbreak area, the real risk for travelers is effectively zero. For this reason, not a single country in the world has issued an Ebola related travel warning against any of the major safari countries.
How to book a safari with free Ebola related cancellation
Safari travelers who still prefer to have the Ebola related cancellation option can book with one of the safari operators listed, or request their travel agent to design a custom safari using only accommodations with amended cancellation policies.