Bleak festive season for tourism sector

07 January 2021 | Tourism

ELLANIE SMIT

WINDHOEK



Although the hospitality sector saw a welcome increase in tourists at the beginning of the festive season, stricter coronavirus measures announced just before Christmas soon dashed their hopes.

Hospitality Association of Namibia (Han) CEO Gitta Paetzold told Namibian Sun that some hotels reported a number of walk-in clients in the first three weeks of December, some even from Europe, as well as a good number of Namibians making use of the continuing special offers. “Unfortunately, the news on 23 December of stricter coronavirus measures, curfews and the ban on the sale of alcohol on Sundays and public holidays immediately halved the potential business turnover for the hospitality and catering sector, with table reservations for 20:00 cancelled completely and a noticeable number of guests deciding not to frequent restaurants on those days at all.”

She said all in all, December did, however, bring some welcome relief to the industry, despite low numbers.



Batswana missing

While South Africans did travel to Namibia, guests from Botswana were noticeably absent at the coast this year, a result of the uncertainty and ever-changing border crossing regulations, she said.

There are talks that the killing of four Namibians by Botswana's army along the Chobe River in November 2020 played a role in the decreasing number of visitors from Botswana, with the killings calling for revenge.

She added that it was still too early to provide a full reflection and statistics on the past festive season.

Paetzold said the second wave of the coronavirus has dampened hope of a gradual upswing or recovery in tourism.

According to her, some cancellations have already been received since Namibia was re-listed as a 'risky destination' by the European Union on 26 December.

It is expected that more cancellations will follow until April, she said, as travel restrictions and lockdowns persist in Namibia's main source markets in the UK and Europe.



Difficult year ahead

“This year will be a difficult year for tourism and it is hoped that the resilience usually typical of Namibia and its people will also hold up for the coming year, as the financial situation for tourism and hospitality is still dire and the level of recovery slow.”

Paetzold said it is important that Namibians strictly apply and adhere to the coronavirus safety measures such as wearing masks, washing and sanitising hands, social distancing and other efforts to avoid spreading the virus. The tourism safety protocols developed last June have been implemented by most of the tourism sector and other businesses, and are vital to ensure a fairly safe working environment, she said.

“Unfortunately, the latter part of 2020 has seen Namibians relax these safety measures and HAN and its members have already been approached by some tourists and agents expressing concern about the disregard for safety measures at some establishments and restaurants.”

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