Sap Slips

Sap Slips

Out there in the milky skies of a not-so-distant horizon I see the first sparkles of a mammoth explosion rising up from the yet slimy volcanoes just below ground: the travel bubble bursting.

Oh in this dismal world might also a Ukrainian nuclear plant or the world’s oldest democracies shatter like a CGI commercial for relieving your psoriasis, but truly you adventuresome soul, your airline ticket and safari price might soon be crumbling to pieces. Don’t blame me if I’m wrong. It’s happened before.
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Going Somewhere?

Going Somewhere?

If you’re planning to take an airplane sometime in the next month or two… well, consider driving… or swimming … or just using your xBox. I didn’t mention trains, because in London anyway, they’re on strike.

I’m not talking about traveling to safaris, either – that’s another story. Safaris are not rebounding as expected. The turmoil in air travel is all in the U.S. and Europe.
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Not So Good

Not So Good

Things aren’t going well for tourism. It’s best in America where local travel has doubled over last year and is only about 15-20% below pre-pandemic levels. Europe is a close second. It’s really bad in Africa and the Middle East where current tourism is still only a third pre-pandemic levels. And the worst of all, of course, is Asia where China is learning the hard way that you can’t wipe out the virus like the Uyghurs.

Soon I return to Africa with 9 travelers, and as disappointed as I felt with the less than full safari my guys on the ground are ecstatic. At least I’m coming! Tourism in Africa isn’t anywhere near the level that was predicted, and this is leading to some very interesting stuff.
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Imminegration

Imminegration

Courtesy / The New York Times
Two of my closest African acquaintances are settled in America. Both hurdled right over all the obstacles to immigration into the States: One is a political refugee and one is an accomplished physician.

It’s left me scratching my head. What distinguishes these two individuals from the hundreds of thousands pounding on our southern border with similar motivations and urgencies?
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Far Out

Far Out

I was supposed to be in Paris with my wife celebrating our 50th anniversary. I’m in Dublin where I’ll be writing more about this interesting, unexpected journey due to Covid in later days. But today I just gotta write about Marriott!

Marriott is pleased as puddin pie that it’s opening a luxury camp in Kenya’s Mara. “The location and surrounding landscape will … create harmony with the natural world … drawing inspiration from the elements: earth, wind, fire and water.” Not sure about the fire.
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Simplicity

Simplicity

Six dollar-a-gallon is less painful than radiation burns. Devil in the details, of course, so celebration of America’s “ban of Russian oil” should be suspended until all the details are known. But my African friends think my ardent support for this is hypocritical. One of my favorite commentators, Joy Reid of MSNBC, last night echoed that sentiment. They’re all wrong.
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Kingly Kicks

Kingly Kicks

As this (hopefully last) phase of the pandemic ends the tourism that’s left standing in the fields of Africa is fit for a king. In fact only kings. A safari post-pandemic will cost you twice what it was pre-pandemic.

EWT’s informal survey of 2022 safari prices in sub-Saharan Africa shows a dramatic price increase from 2020. Highest in Tanzania, lowest in South Africa but unbelievable everywhere. What’s going on and is this going to last or should you roll back on your heels and wait for sanity?
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Covid Rant

Covid Rant

Travelers’ frustrations are growing. … What a stupidly simplistic statement: everybody’s frustrations are growing. But I’m talking about travel and I’m about to scold you if you travel.

Travelers are venting their anger on us, their suppliers. They want to know why they can’t get their money back for trips that the virus scuttled. This is my answer.
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Divide & Conquer

Divide & Conquer

If Boris Johnson hadn’t closed down his country and if scientists were organized well enough to give us a quick determination that the disease caused by Omicron is – as claimed by the South African Chief Medical Officer – mild, and/or that existing vaccines offer as much or better protection against Omicron than the flu vaccine does for the flu… the world would be in a much better place, today.

Whether Johnson’s policies and all those who followed him were well thought-out or reactionary doesn’t matter anymore. The die is cast. This latest blow to tourism in sub-Saharan Africa could be lethal. It’s spreading far beyond tourism. The influential Sowetan-Live news published, “Travel bans smack of colonialism.” The war’s begun.

WHO’s exhausted arguing that Omicron can’t be stopped by travel bans which do however impede research and implementation of global initiatives to stem the virus. The organization concluded a special meeting yesterday begging western nations to open their borders and share more vaccines.

This is no longer just an epidemiological debate. It’s political, economic and cultural.

Think of all the American governors who refused to shut down, to issue mandates or even publish statistics. The “Trump Front.” And the Trump Front’s base is rural, poor and feels disenfranchised from the America we know and love. The Front becomes most vociferous and dynamic where the demographics of the under-privileged meet the urban Mar-A-Lagos. There, the victimized poorest and the criminal richest don’t collide but collude.

Excluding politicians, hedge-funders and other evil exploiters, the common denominator between Mar-A-Lago and The Front is ignorance and the fear that creates when something new and threatening emerges like Omicron. Self-interest becomes muddled when you don’t know what to do. That’s the worst terror for the selfish.

So whether you’re Ted Cruz fleeing to the Caribbean or Donald Trump admitting he obstructed justice, or any of the nameless 600 being hunted down for storming the Capitol on January 6, you’re scared and … reacting.

Like Boris Johnson and the dozens of countries that followed that closed their “borders” to a virus that sneaks through steel mesh. The ramifications weren’t thought out before the bridge was lifted from the moat: Jail for the insurgents. Loss for the politician. Disharmony for the world. The perfect cesspool for a couple more variants to form. (Is war with Russia part of this?)

“Hate for Africa is unscientific, mindless” writes another correspondent in the Sowetan.

”Donald Trump called Africa a ‘shit hole’… Western nations have treated Africa with total and utter disrespect. From monumental human rights violations …to the ruthless exploitation of Africa’s mineral wealth, these racist policies continue… Today, Southern Africa is being ruthlessly punished for discovering and alerting the world for identifying a new variant.”

There is one earth and the virus attacked earth, not Brooklyn, not Torres del Paine, not Stellenbosch. As it divides and conquers us it heaves us into raw and hurtful divisions and those with either nothing to lose or the most to lose begin to fight to the death.

Brake-Through

Brake-Through

The malaria vaccine is continuing good news in the battle against disease in Africa, but it’s not a cause for great celebration. I’m a bit peeved, in fact, with the PR-rollout of Mosquirix by GlaxoSmithKline which strikes me more as an attempt by the pharma to remain relevant after the failure of its Sanofi–GSK Covid vaccine.

Here’s the thing. Mosquirix has been around in some form since 1987. Much improved, its efficacy is still as low as 26% (the highest in any study was 50%) and only for toddlers. It’s not effective against young adults and older.
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Lion on Safari

Lion on Safari

Early this morning I finished a number of phone conversations with friends, staff and property owners in East Africa, mostly in Tanzania and Kenya. I’m encouraged … with caveats.

The small companies are dying like flies. The big, mid-market companies are also on life-support and some of them already hanging from the edge. Upmarket companies, or small companies owned by deep pocketed investors seem to be all that’s left. Even the bottom feeders seemed to have fled Dodge.
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malariaRNA

malariaRNA

It took a pandemic that killed millions of people, but the developed world seems ready to manufacture a malaria vaccine that works.

The Covid pandemic clearly demonstrates that Africa will never vaccinate enough of its people against Covid-19 (or any other disease) until manufacturing takes place there. It also made clear that if a disease is allowed to flourish in Africa, it will forever be present globally.

The scientific triumph and economic success of Pfizer’s mRNA Covid-19 vaccine juxtaposed on the battle Africa is losing with Covid because it can’t get the vaccine has finally shamed enough western powers to loosen international patents and in other ways underwrite the serious acceleration of both a Covid and a malaria vaccine for manufacture in Africa. We could have the malaria vaccine within a few years.

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Still a Pig

Still a Pig

Did you bathe recently? Use any body creams or lotions? Cream cheese or margarine on your bagel? Drive your Corolla to work? Then you’re one of the 4+ billion world-wide users of palm oil.

Today palm oil comes mostly from Africa. Ten times the value and quantity of oil is produced from a single acre of palm trees as from an acre of soybeans. And for the time being, anyway, it’s cheaper.

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When To Go

When To Go

Everyone in sub-Saharan Africa is gearing up for an expected surge in tourists in just a few weeks. Oh how they’ll be disappointed.

The uncertainty of airline schedules, the flux in which European airports in particular continue to alter their in-and-out rules, much less the reliability of lodge and hotel services following more than 14 months of closure will make those travelers who actually have booked early departures balk before stepping on the plane.

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