There have been times in my travel life where I’ve practically had a location to myself.
Tens of thousands of tourists canceled trips to India when I was there the first time, in the mid-1990s, because a plague had broken out in one city of one state and it was on the cover of every news magazine. Hotels for foreigners were suddenly empty across the whole country, even though a total of 52 people died over two months (in India!) and it never spread beyond one region.
The normally popular area of Tana Toraja on the island of Sulawesi was empty in 1998 after riots hit Indonesia’s capital of Jakarta, more than 1,500 miles away. We found a terrific hotel for cheap and every tour of the sites was a private one.
My family had our pick of empty hotels in normally packed Playa del Carmen back in the summer of 2009. Drug cartel violence was making the news from incidents near the U.S. border, more than 2,000 miles away. There was a swine flu scare at the same time keeping people away, even though more cases had been reported in the United States than in Mexico by that point.
Remember when people canceled trips to Vancouver and Banff in 2003 because of SARS disease in Toronto, more than 2,200 miles away?
Ebola is to Tanzania as a Raven is to a Writing Desk
As this Epidemic of Ignorance article points out, “Those stricken West African countries are closer to Madrid, Paris and London than they are to safari hot spots, such as Kenya, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Tanzania.” They’re blaming it all on the map-challenged Americans, which is fair criticism, but it can’t just be my countrymen if business is down 70% like some are saying. Surely people besides the Yanks travel to Africa to see wild animals.
But anyway, the panic is surely unjustified as even travel to the nation of South Africa has taken a dive. Even though “There are no Ebola cases reported in South Africa and the country is 3,300 miles from the nearest outbreak in West Africa.”
I find it kind of ironic though that CNN has an article out called Ebola Fears Crippling Africa’s Safari Industry. This is especially rich coming from CNN as lately people have nicknamed it “The Ebola News Network” for pounding the story into the ground day over a 24-hour period day after day. Gee, I wonder why people are scared? Maybe because your whole business is built around scaring people regularly?
Apparently wealthy people are smart enough not to watch cable news networks. “Rose Hipwood of the Luxury Safari Company says the top end of Africa’s safari market hasn’t been hit as hard by Ebola fears ‘since many of those clients are international travelers and can look at the situation sensibly.'”
Be a Contrarian Traveler
If you’re well-traveled and can read a map, you can make out like a bandit in these situations. If you see that the panicked masses are heading one direction, you can scoop up some amazing bargains in the places they have deserted. And those who run businesses there will do their best to make sure you’re happy.
This is a great time to get a deep discount on a safari trip or a flight to Africa. Ixtapa and Zihuatenejo beach resorts in Mexico are probably going to be cheap this winter. They’ve got the bad luck of being located in the state of Guerrero, where 43 protesting students disappeared from a town in the interior and are probably dead. Roatan in Honduras is probably the cheapest place in the world for a dive vacation now since one of its two largest cities (114 miles away by plane) has been declared as having the highest homicide rate in the world outside of war zones.
Hey, I’m not saying to book a trip to Syria or Afghanistan. But if the troubles you’re hearing about are nowhere near where you’re really planning to go, filter out the noise and benefit from the fact that most people won’t bother.