My name is Pearl Jurist-Schoen and I’ve been working at Extraordinary Journeys since February this year. EJ makes sure to send each of its team members to Africa at least once a year so we can stay as connected and up-to-date as possible with happenings on the ground. I was fortunate enough to spend two beautiful weeks in Kenya as part of a major event put on by the Kenya Tourism Board. My journeys brought me through Tsavo West National Park, Samburu National Park, and the Naboisho Conservancy of the Maasai Mara National Reserve. The trip concluded in Nairobi at the Magical Kenya Tourism Expo where I met with numerous partners and learned about new properties and activities to implement into our clients’ itineraries. It was an amazing first trip to Africa and it’s safe to say that I’m hooked! The wildlife, the landscapes, the properties, the people, and the hospitality never ceased to amaze me and I can’t wait to return.
After having such a beautiful experience in Kenya, my touchdown home was met with unavoidable negative media surrounding Ebola and heightened fears of travel, especially to anywhere in Africa. It was strange to me to have just spent two weeks in an African country where I experienced nothing but the utmost warmth and comfort while never once feeling threatened – physically or for my health.
I think the problem lies in the ways that the media portrays Africa. People forget how large and varied Africa is. Africa consists of 54 independent countries that span over 11.6 million square miles; that’s larger than the United States, China, India, Eastern and Western Europe, Mexico, and Japan combined. Each country has its own unique history, culture, and location which are often overlooked by the media and rather all lumped into the one category that is Africa. I had absolutely zero concerns about my health or safety while in Kenya. Ebola is 3,300 miles away from Kenya. Not once did I feel unsafe or remotely vulnerable to the disease that is on the forefront of everyone’s mind.
Our hearts go out to all of the victims of Ebola and we are the first to support immediate intervention. But we also feel for all of the African countries that are unaffected by Ebola, yet are severely impacted by the negative media surrounding Africa as a whole. If tourism in Eastern and Southern Africa plummet, these countries face severe economic damage.
I loved my time spent in Kenya and I wouldn’t hesitate to go back. We have team members traveling to Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe, and South Africa between now and Christmas and we can’t wait. It would be a true shame to see tourism in these countries falter because of media-heightened fears. We would never send one of our employees or clients to an area that wasn’t safe. Please remember that all African countries cannot be lumped together in the midst of the rising hysterics. Please contact us if you have any questions at all about travel and we would be happy to talk to you. We want educating the public about Ebola and its risks to be our main concern and to protect our team, clients, and friends in Africa.
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