Coronavirus hits tourism

A total of 40 Namibian co-exhibitors, representing 122 accommodation establishments, 24 travel operators and five car rental companies, were expected to present their products under the motto 'Namibia, Inspired by Conservation' from the 4 to 8 March.

02 March 2020 | Tourism

The ITB Berlin, one of the world's leading travel and trade shows, has officially been cancelled after days of intensive talks, exhibitor withdrawals and public calls for the trade fair to be dropped because of potential health risks to the expected 150 000 visitors and exhibitors from the coronavirus outbreak.

This has resulted in severe losses for Namibian exhibitors and an overall impact on the tourism industry.

A total of 40 Namibian co-exhibitors, representing 122 accommodation establishments, 24 travel operators and five car rental companies, had been expected to present their products under the motto 'Namibia, Inspired by Conservation' from the 4 to 8 March.

Messe Berlin, who is among the world's ten leading trade fair companies, on Friday confirmed that ITB Berlin 2020 will not take place.

Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) CEO Digu //Naobeb said due to the rapid spread of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) the German federal ministry of health and the federal ministry of economics said the ITB Berlin should be cancelled.

He said the responsible health authority of the district of Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf in Berlin, Germany, imposed significantly tighter restrictions on holding the event.

The health authority stipulated that each participant would need to prove to Messe Berlin that they were not from a designated risk area or had not been in contact with a person or persons from a risk area. It was not possible for Messe Berlin to satisfy these requirements overall.

“We regret the situation has arisen, as the ITB would have given the Namibian tourism industry a great and professional marketing platform to promote destination Namibia under the umbrella of the NTB for the 29th consecutive year,” said //Naobeb.

He further said that the NTB would like to thank all the Namibian trade partners for their continued support towards the promotion of Namibia as a preferred holiday destination in their target markets.

“We equally sympathise with all our Namibian co-exhibitors who have to encounter severe losses due to the cancellation of ITB 2020.”

//Naobeb said never before has the NTB registered so many partners at the ITB. According to him three upcoming small and medium-sized enterprises were also part of the delegation from Namibia. Air Namibia, Namibia Wildlife Resorts and Gondwana Collection Namibia again supported the NTB as strategic partners, he said.

//Naobeb said the strong demand from Namibia confirms the role of the ITB as an important platform for strengthening the reputation of the country, growing its network, discovering new market opportunities and analysing the products of competitors.

“Surely the cancellation of the ITB will have an impact on the overall tourism industry. The NTB supports a statement by the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) that during times of crisis, tourism has to live up to its responsibility as an integral part of wider society.”

//Naobeb said the sector must put people and their wellbeing first.

“Tourists also have a responsibility to inform themselves before they travel in order to limit the threat of transmission, and they should follow the recommendations of the World Health Organisation and their own national health authorities. Tourism is vulnerable to the effects of public health emergencies.”

ELLANIE SMIT

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