Hope sparked for real tourism revival

27 October 2020 | Tourism

ELLANIE SMIT

WINDHOEK

The Hospitality Association of Namibia (Han) says the relaxed Covid-19 travel measures, which came into effect last week, have the potential to spark a real tourism revival in the country.

President Hage Geingob last Wednesday announced that all travellers, including tourists, businesspeople, Namibians and permit holders, who arrive with a negative Covid-19 test result not older than 72 hours, will be permitted to proceed to their final destinations in the country.

The five-day mandatory retest has also been withdrawn.

“After seven months of what felt like a severe drought in this sector due to the international travel ban, regional lockdowns and restrictions, the announcement for the first time gives real hope for a tourism revival,” said Han CEO Gitta Paetzold.

She said the measures put in place are fair and acceptable and strike a perfect balance between limiting the risk of further transmission and providing the tourism sector with a conducive platform to conduct business in the hope of slowly reviving the fragile industry.

Overcoming international crisis

Paetzold said Han and other tourism bodies have worked hard since March to find ways to overcome the international crisis caused by the coronavirus, using the lockdowns and severe restrictions to devise risk mitigation measures, not only for the survival of businesses, but also for the safe reopening of the industry.

She said since April, work has been done on Namibian Tourism Safety Protocols, a toolkit that has guided the hospitality and catering industry since May in providing a safe environment for tourists.

These guidelines have been extended to cover all tourism sectors and have been perfected by the Namibia Tourism Board, while receiving international praise and recognition.

Low occupancy

According to Paetzold, occupancy numbers were still alarmingly low until September.

The total occupancy for the third quarter of this year (July, August and September) stood at under 8%, compared to over 64% during the same period last year.

The bulk was still from quarantine accommodation, but also contained some leisure travel, she said.

Meanwhile, in mid-September, Namibia ended its state of emergency and opened its first travel access point, Hosea Kutako International Airport, while since this month, some land borders were also opened for leisure travel.

Ready for guests

“While the domestic market will remain dear and supported by the industry, the tourism industry will only be able to survive if and when the flow of international travel, including cross-border travel from South Africa and the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, is promoted and increased considerably,” Paetzold said.

She stressed that the industry is ready to receive international guests, with increased safety and hygiene measures implemented and tested since May by the domestic market.

According to her, reports from the few international travellers entering Namibia since mid-September confirm the effectiveness and professional way in which Namibian service providers are operating to ensure that guests feel comfortable.

“The Namibian tourism industry is confident that it can accommodate and successfully execute safe and comfortable travel for local, regional and international guests coming to Namibia, and is delighted at the relaxation of travel restrictions and the wider opening of our borders to allow for the return of our tourists, and the successful execution of Namibia's tourism revival initiative.”

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