Fear Of Increased Suicide Rates In Gabon’s Tourism Sector As COVID-19 Pains Worsen

Chef Merlin Cédric Ondo Ella, President and Founder of the Gabonese Culinary Association, has warned that unless government acts immediately to alleviate the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the hotel and restaurant sector, the country may soon witness a wave of suicides by operators and workers in the sector.

“There has been no discussion, no proposals on the conditions for the re-launch of activities, no support in the face of the different difficulties faced by the professionals.

“Many restaurants would be obliged to shut down because of you, because you are not proposing anything at all. And tourism in Gabon is going to roll backwards by 100 years,” Ella said in a declaration addressed to the Minister of Tourism, Hugues Mbadinga Madiya.

Ella, who was the 2017 “Nelson Mandela Culinary Challenge” winner declared: “Honestly, I am very disappointed by this minister. Very soon we are going to register a wave of suicides within the tourism sector in Gabon.”

Earlier in May, Ella had sounded an alarm regretting the absence of dialogue between the minister and actors in the hotel and restaurant sector and attributed the situation to the apparent marginalisation of the sector.

HumAngle reports that three months into the COVID-19 pandemic that led to the government-imposed closure of hotels and restaurants, the minister is yet to discuss with entrepreneurs and professionals ways of alleviating the difficulties facing the sector and how to best re-launch activities without endangering the health of users.

While noting that his previous pleas to the government are yet to bear any fruits, Ella said at a moment when certain countries such as France and Italy were progressively reopening bars and restaurants, the Gabonese government should at least opt for a partial reopening of the facilities.

“The COVID -19 pandemic is causing enormous damage within the tourism sector in Gabon and restaurant workers are being retrenched in their droves,” the Culinary Association president declared.

The last meeting between Madiya and professionals of the tourism sector was held by video conference on May 9, 2020, with very few operators taking part.

The objective of the meeting was to discuss “the perspectives of the sector, notably on all structural actions to be initiated with a view to re-launching the sector after the crises linked to the COVID -19 pandemic”.

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Chief Bisong Etahoben

Chief Bisong Etahoben is a Cameroonian investigative journalist and traditional ruler. He writes for international media and has participated in several transnational investigations. Etahoben won the first-ever Cameroon Investigative Journalist Award in 1992. He serves as a member of a number of international investigative journalism professional bodies including the Forum for African Investigative Reporters (FAIR). He is HumAngle's Francophone and Central Africa editor.

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