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Malaria and Tourism

Malaria and Tourism

Tourism brings an estimated R20 billion per year into the South African economy, second only to the manufacturing and mining industry in its contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The number of tourists that visit South Africa has grown by 40% since 1994. The number of jobs in the trade, catering and accommodation sector of the economy grew by 9% in 2000 as a result of the growth in the tourism sector (Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism Annual Report, 1999/2000).

Malaria has hampered the development and growth of the region as the fear of contracting malaria is a major deterrent to many tourists. It is therefore important to have effective malaria control in order for tourism and associated development to take place in this region. The LSDI Malaria Control Programme has initiated a study that aims to determine the influence of malaria on tourism and establish the perceived risk associated with malaria within the area.


Malaria and Tourism Study

Tourist facility owners and managers have been the first focus area in this study, with a questionnaire  being widely distributed to determine the influence of malaria on tourism and the effects of malaria control on development in the area. By capturing such data, annual comparisons can be made to determine the influence of malaria on the tourism industry.

Perceived malaria risk by tourists is believed to be an important factor that has an influence on the tourism industry.  Tourists that visit the area will therefore be the second focus area in this study. The risk factor as defined in this study is the possibility of contracting malaria whilst visiting a tourist facility in the area. This has been undertaken by the following:

Progress

A tourism survey (86 tourist facilities) conducted in the LSDI area during 2000/2001, found that malaria was perceived as the principle negative determinant on bed occupancy. Cancellations were recorded from tourist facilities in all the districts of the LSDI during the 2000 malaria season, with an average cancellation figure of 44% being recorded in southern Mozambique. This was largely due to the floods early in 2000 resulting in tourists being concerned about a possible malaria epidemic which was widely reported on in the press.

All tourist facilities visited in the 2000/2001 study were revisited in January/February 2003 to assess changes in attitude that might have taken place. Local (82) and international (58) tourists were interviewed in July in KwaZulu-Natal as part of the second round data collection.

A similar study to determine the influence of malaria on tourism and to assess the risk perception of facility owners and managers was carried out in January and July 2003 in Mpumalanga Province, sampling 86 facilities. Local (82) and international (58) tourists were interviewed in July in Mpumalanga to assess their risk perception in regard to malaria.

Malaria cases in KwaZulu-Natal decreased dramatically from 41,077 during the 1999/2000 season, to 1,688 in the 2002/2003 season. It is anticipated that the malaria case reductions in Swaziland, South Africa and southern Mozambique will have a positive influence on tourism in the Lubombo corridor.

The figures below indicate the location of the tourist facilities with regard to small scale variations in malaria incidence in KwaZulu-Natal Province, and show the decrease in case incidence from 1999/2000 to 2002/2003. In the 1999/2000 malaria season, 33% of tourist facilities were in areas of > 25 malaria cases per 1000 people, and 67% were in areas where less than 25 malaria cases per 1000 people were recorded.

A major reduction in malaria cases in the 2002/2003 malaria season was achieved. In the 2002/2003 malaria season, none of the tourist facilities were in areas of > 25 malaria case per 1000 people, and 98% were in areas where the malaria incidence was very low, with 0.001-5 cases per 1000 people being recorded. The reductions in the 2002/2003 malaria season indicate the positive effect of the regional approach to malaria control in the Lubombo corridor. It is essential that this information is made available through all media to encourage tourists to visit the area.

Tourist Information Booklets

Close co-operation between the malaria control authorities in Jozini and the Medical Research Council has led to the development of a GIS-based malaria information system. These data clearly outline that many of the earmarked tourist development nodes are relatively malaria free, information that is not generally available to the public. Malaria distribution/risk data is currently made available to tourists at the district level. Data from the highest risk district in South Africa show that if mapped as 200 district sub-divisions, malaria is far from evenly distributed at this level. Some large areas are practically malaria-free while areas such as those adjacent to Ndumu Game Reserve have more than 500 malaria cases per 1000 head of population. Data at this scale are vital to dispensing appropriate information on malaria risk to tourism facilities. The MRC is continually updating detailed maps showing risk levels and risk periods at tourist destinations.

Information on personal protection and prophylactic measures is available in a booklet. The southern African Malaria Initiative whose steering committee is comprised of members from South Africa, Mozambique, Swaziland and Botswana, concluded, at a recent regional meeting,  that the drawing up of such information booklets was of regional importance. The booklet is currently being updated and will be distributed early in 2004. A malaria update including risk maps was made available to all facility owners in KwaZulu-Natal during 2003 and at the Tourism Indaba, and these were also made available to tourists following interviews.