Angolan tourists on the decline

The economic crisis in Angola has led to an 11% drop in Angolan visitors to Namibia, with devastating effect for northern businesses.

19 December 2017 | Tourism

Although Angola remained Namibia's largest tourism market with more than 398 000 Angolans visiting the country last year, the economic crisis in the neighbouring country had a major impact on the numbers.

The number of Angolans visiting Namibia dropped by nearly 11%, from 447 038 in 2015 to 398 939 last year. Between 2014 and 2015 there was a 5% decline. Tourism minister Pohamba Shifeta expressed concern over the drop in the numbers when he released the Tourism Statistical Report for 2016 last week.

“Angolan visitors have dropped due to the declining buying power caused by the economic crisis and the drop in oil prices.”

After a continued drop in oil prices in recent years, the price of crude oil dropped to its lowest level in more than a decade at the beginning of this year and pushed oil-exporting Angola's currency to record lows. This plunged the economy of Africa's second largest crude producer into a crisis. Despite the country's oil and diamond resources, Angola suffers endemic poverty, with more than a third of the population of around 24 million living below the poverty line.

“They depended on the oil income, which went down. You will now find fewer Angolans coming here to spend. Now you can see that there is a problem and even day-visitors are declining,” said Shifeta.

He said large numbers of Angolan day-visitors used to do shopping at the towns of Oshikango and Katwitwi, but the local economies of these border towns have collapsed.

Shifeta said those Angolans still visiting Namibia are not spending as much as they used to.

In 2015 already, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) had expressed concern that the plunging global oil price would lead to Angolans curbing their massive shopping sprees in Namibia, which had long been the lifeblood of the northern regions.

“Low oil prices are not only good news. Depending on how long they will prevail, they can have a negative impact on oil exploration activities in the country in the medium to long term.

“In addition, demand from Angolans living in Namibia or coming for shopping could decline once the lower oil prices impact on salary levels, economic activities in Angola, and the value of their currency,” the IPPR said. Bonnie Mbdizo of the Namibian Tourism Board added that South Africa had recently lifted its visa restrictions for Angolans.

He said Namibia must ensure that it does not become a transit destination for Angolans on their way to South Africa.

“We need to move our destination further, our competitors are doing well. We have to diversify our markets and address the issue of seasonality.”

Furthermore, statistics show that there was a 1% increase in arrivals from African tourist markets from 2015 to 2016. That poor result is attributed to the 11% drop in the Angolan market. Occupancy statistics indicate that Angolans accounted for only 1.6% of the business done by Namibian accommodation establishments last year. Namibians occupied 33% of accommodation establishments. There was a 35% increase in German visitors to Namibia since 2015 and Germany showed dominance in the overseas market, while the UK and USA took second and third place. The number of tourists from Europe grew by 26% while North American visitors grew by 10% in 2016. There was also an increase of 8% in the number of tourist arrivals from China.

ELLANIE SMIT

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