Covid-19: Booking cancellations hit tourism sector

09 June 2021 | Tourism

ELLANIE SMIT

WINDHOEK

The local tourism industry is experiencing a flood of booking cancellations due to the sharp increase in Covid-19 cases, the high number of fatalities and hospitals reaching capacity.

The CEO of the Hospitality Association of Namibia, Gitta Paetzold, told Namibia Sun that there is a sense of nervousness in the tourism industry, with bookings for July to September being cancelled

She said institutions like the US Centres for Disease Control and the Robert Koch Institute in Germany ranked travel destinations according to incident figures and health capacity, and the fear is that given the current status, Namibia might be returned to the list of high-risk countries.”

Paetzold said that would have devastating consequences for Namibia as it would bring added measures such as compulsory quarantine on return, which had caused cancellations in the past.

“As it is now with the coronavirus numbers rising alarmingly in Namibia and the very slow vaccination uptake, we are risking being categorised as a high-risk destination once again, and this alone is already leading to cancellations of bookings in the system for July to September - a cause of great concern currently in tourism.”

Hopes dashed

She said new bookings for July to November had raised hopes of a tourism recovery, but that was in the balance now.

“In discussion with some establishments, we were told that the financial situation is now worse than last year, as all reserves have been used to keep operations going, restarting activities, and providing services at highly discounted rates for the past eight months,

while operational costs have not been discounted at all and in some instances have even gone up.

“So, the income of half the occupancy of a normal year is further halved by discounted rates, at rising operational costs, which poses huge financial challenges on the tourism businesses.

“Only a constant, steady and stable working environment and positive outlook can guarantee its revival and recovery.”

Paetzold said the current wave of infections is caused by community transmission and not by travellers, all of whom must show proof of a negative test result before being allowed to enter the country.

“Tourism therefore feels strongly that it would be unfair to punish tourism through regional lockdowns or border closures. Such measures would have a catastrophic effect on our industry. This stop-start, open-close approach could well be the death knell for tourism.”

[email protected]

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