The Impact of Disease on Tourism Picture Showing how malaria is transmitted through a bite from the mosquito. Introduction

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Luke Whatling, James Stevenson

The Impact of Disease on Tourism

Picture 1. Showing how malaria is transmitted through a bite from the mosquito.


The purpose of this investigation is to determine whether disease has a large influence on where people travel. It is conceivable that a large amount of people would not travel to a place where this is a high chance of catching a disease, however for others the attractions of a particular area may outweigh any particular risk.

To look at examples of tourism and disease we have chosen to look at malaria and tourism in South Africa and also the Sars disease in Asia to see if the risk of these diseases has affected the tourism numbers in these particular places. Many countries rely on tourism as part of their national income. A country that receives a lot of money from tourism can use that money to develop and improve the quality of life within that country; however a country that has its tourism effected by disease could see deterioration in other aspects of its economy. Disease is one of the biggest reasons why people cancel their holidays as it triggers a fear for their safety factor for themselves and their family.

Sars stands for severe acute respiratory syndrome, this syndrome occurs in humans and there has been one major epidemic of the syndrome to date. Between November 2002 and July 2003 in China, Sars effected up to 5000 people in China resulting in about 350 deaths. It was found that 19 countries were found to have the virus there. (Wikipedia)

Sars had big effects on China’s tourism industry. It was estimated in 2003 that with the war in Iraq and the outbreak of Sars almost one sixth of economic growth in Asia was lost. (BBC news)
The women’s football world cup scheduled for China was moved to the United States. In addition, the world championship of the women’s ice hockey was cancelled. These events were likely to have had an impact and lowered the incoming tourist arrivals.

In Thailand, the tourist arrivals dropped by 12.5% in March due to the outbreak of Sars and the war in Iraq and the amount of arrivals was further reduced by 44.8% by April compared with that of the previous year. (Thailand outlook)

A headline from the BBC archives (BBC website) shows the impact of disease on tourism. Companies and businesses such as the airline Cathay Pacific had a significant drop in air traffic. Hong Kong’s economy had virtually stopped even before the World Health Organisation had told people not to visit, (Geofile June 2004) 5% of Hong Kong’s economy was tourism and that collapsed with over 100 restaurants closing due to Sars. The World Health Organisation advised people not to visit the country and this was the downfall for some business and tourism especially. Other countries such as Toronto, which has many Chinese inhabitants, found that tourism spending was reduced by about $1 billion. (BBC website)


Figure 1 Figure 2

The graphs above illustrate that the tourist arrivals in figure 1 are much higher than those that are in figure 2, and one year later when the Sars epidemic broke out.

Malaria and Tourism

Tourism brings an estimated R20 billion (£1.4 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. (Lubombo -Malaria and tourism)

A tourism survey (86 tourist facilities) conducted in the active malaria area during 2000/2001, found that malaria was perceived as the principle negative deterrent on room occupancy. Cancellations were recorded from tourist facilities in all the districts of the LSDI during the 2000 malaria season, although there were cancellations it is not evidence for the lack of tourism in a place with such a feared disease in South Africa the attractions might out way the negativity associated with visiting the continent of Africa. (Lubombo -Malaria and tourism)
Malaria is the most well known parasitic disease in the world. It kills 3,000 children every day and more than one million each year. The majority of these deaths occur among children under five years of age and pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa. (Amref Project, Malaria)
LSDI = The LSDI Malaria Control Programme
Figure 3 A graph to show malaria per 100000 people in different countries


As this graph shows (figure 3) malaria is really uncommon in South Africa but it is still perceived as a place of risk by tourists, however there is evidence from the information that South Africa does receive a vast amount of tourism still


As Sars did not go on for more than a year this meant that the collapse of the tourist industry in China and Thailand was not for the long run. Therefore, the damage to the tourist industry was relatively short and therefore would recover fully. With tourism being a great part of a country’s economy, the effect of disease on any part of the world can be devastating. Sars was controlled and stopped which meant that tourism in effect could recover leaving no gigantic crisis for the country’s economy.

People do not want to go to a country where there is an unnecessary risk of ill health or perhaps death, as Sars would suggest. There is a lot of hassle with regards to getting flu jabs, malaria vaccinations and even wearing a mask if wanting to visit Asia while there is an outbreak of Sars.

As the results show, in Thailand there was a major drop in arrivals at their main airport subsequently due to the outbreak of Sars and perhaps the outbreak of war in Iraq.

South Africa is perceived as a high-risk area to many tourists especially in the case of malaria but as the graph shows there is very little to worry about and there are still tourists that will take the risk to travel to this destination. Malaria in the more developed areas like South Africa is less likely to have more cases (for example 75000 cases in Guinea) and therefore, less of an impact on tourism.


Sars http://www.ctv.caservlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/1066221708980_60/?hub=Canada

Accessed – 10th July 2007

Thailand and Tourism -

Accessed – 10th July 2006

Thailand -

Accessed – 12th July 2007

Malaria -

Accessed – 9th July

Malaria information Page -

Accessed – 7th July 2007

Lubombo Malaria and Tourism

Accessed – 3rd July 2007

Projects > Malaria

Accessed – 4th July 2007

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome -


Accessed – July 12th

Sars affecting tourism bookings -

Accessed – 5th July

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