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1,500 tourists, millions of dollars lost

- As Ebola forces postponement of maiden Africa surfing contest

NOVEMBER 25, 2014 By: Josephine A. Seppeh (Intern)

Sierra Leone would lose over 1,500 tourists and millions of dollars due to the Ebola outbreak, according to George Lewis, a professional cameraman at the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC).

Lewis had taken photos of Bunce Island where slaves were held before they were shipped across the Atlantic in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and uploaded them to internet.

Consequently, Rohnda Rokki Harper, CEO of African Surf International, saw the photos and decided against taking the first African Surfing Contest to Ghana, but diverted the contest to Sierra Leone.

Lewis said he uploaded more pictures of pristine beaches and tourist attraction sites in Sierra Leone, which fascinated Rokki and her team to divert the contest to Sierra Leone.

However, the contest which was due to take place at Bureh Beach – which already has a surfing club established by Shane O’Connor – has been postponed to 2015 or 2016, depending on when the Ebola outbreak ends.

Lewis revealed that Rokki and her team were determined to make the trip even when the virus was ravaging rural areas, but shelved that plan when the outbreak reached the Western Area, which includes Freetown.

The Western Urban and Rural have recorded 1,790 Ebola cases, more than double figures posted by Kailahun and Kenema, two initial epicentre districts.

According to Lewis, the postponed event would have attracted 1,500 tourists from 17 countries across the world.

Two hotels have already been built and many guest houses constructed for the event.

However, the outbreak has effectively put paid to the high income generating event, hopefully momentarily.

The event would have also provided job opportunities to over 500 youth who would have served as tour guides, beach marshals and hotel assistants, Lewis told Concord Times.