Tourism should invest more in social responsibility

31 May 2018 | Tourism

Tourism minister Pohamba Shifeta yesterday urged businesses in the sector to invest more when it comes to social responsibility.

Speaking at the official opening of the Namibia Tourism Expo that is hosted annually by Namibia Media Holdings (NMH), Shifeta said although he appreciated the good business performance in the tourism sector, he would like to see more investment in social responsibility projects.

Shifeta said the ministry was inundated with complaints from some communities who felt unfairly treated by tour and lodge operators, especially those operating in communal conservancies.

He called upon all the businesses in the tourism sector to do more to support those who have helped the growth of such businesses.

“We have a responsibility to help those that are less fortunate and contribute to the common good of our nation.”

Shifeta further said the issues facing the sector were numerous and could not be addressed by one ministry or sector alone.

According to him the government has been re-thinking its approach towards tourism over the last five years to identify the challenges, barriers and other issues facing the tourism sector.

“Knowing the realities facing the sector caused the need to understand and explore why these challenges are presenting and then to look at the necessary process that are needed to address these challenges.”

Shifeta said the Expo served as a platform for players in the tourism industry to market their products and services to everyone involved in the industry and to the public.

Since its inception in 1998, the Expo has consistently grown and has earned a superb reputation for offering the only centralised marketing platform for Namibia's tourism and hospitality industry.

“This year's Expo is putting emphasis on conservation and it is worth noting that our story of conservation is a global success story that today echoes across the continents and is seen as an example of how, by commitment, dedication and community empowerment, a nation and its biodiversity base can be transformed, leading to the greatest wildlife recovery story ever told,” said Shifeta.

The theme of this year's event is 'Conservation - Small Things Matter'.

For Namibia, wildlife, people, landscapes and cultures matter, whether small or big, said Shifeta.

According to him the core principle for Community Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) in Namibia is that people conserve for their own benefit and not for that of others.

Shifeta said by changing the laws, we gave user rights of wildlife to rural communities through conservancies.

“This led to an explosion of conservation like never seen before in the country. The reality of this move was that Namibia took conservation to a grand scale. A scale at which communities and wildlife benefited meaningfully through conservation driven by the incentive of the sharing of the benefits arising out of this conservation of wildlife.”

He added, though, that population growth had led to increasing conflict with wildlife.

“Both [animals and people] need functional ecosystems and space. This led to competition for the same diminishing natural resource and ecosystem services resulting in human-wildlife conflict.”

Shifeta said it was important to understand that an increase in wildlife numbers came at a cost to the rural communities in and around conservancies.

If this cost became too high and they did not enjoy more benefits from wildlife, the communities would lose the incentive to conserve, he warned.

“Where does this all fit within the tourism sector? Tourism today is recognised as the most competitive industry globally and has demonstrated its ability to contribute to the higher development goals of governments through its multiplier effect.”

Shifeta said this became evident in Namibia in recent times. He pointed out that tourism was the only sector that grew in a time of economic turmoil, while other sectors contracted.

Despite this reality, tourism was underappreciated as an economic driver in Namibia and this was reflected in its budget allocation and the barriers that the sector was facing.

According to him Namibia this year truly saw that tourism was an engine for economic growth. “It has been placed at the centre stage on the road towards true economic independence through job creation, empowerment and poverty alleviation.”

The latest edition of the Tourism Satellite Account (TSA) indicates that the sector's direct contribution to the GDP is N$5.2 billion while the indirect contribution is N$15.1 billion. Moreover, the sector created 44 700 direct jobs and 100 720 indirect jobs.

Shifeta congratulated NMH on annually hosting a successful tourism expo and for implementing initiatives such as the Town of the Year Award and the Responsible Tourism Awards.

The main sponsors of this year's Expo are Old Mutual and First National Bank (FNB).