Hopes for speedy tourism recovery dashed

The Namibian hospitality sector had an all-time low occupancy rate of barely 4.5% in the second quarter of 2020.

26 July 2021 | Tourism

ELLANIE SMIT

WINDHOEK

Hopes for the tourism industry to have a speedy recovery and a high season that would have started this month have been dashed by Namibia being labelled as a high-risk country.

This negative status resulted in huge losses of millions of dollars in potential business through cancellations of planned travels to Namibia for the period July to September.

However, the second-quarter national average occupancy statistics for 2021 show an increase of about 19% compared to the same period last year.

This is according to the CEO of the Hospitality Association of Namibia (Han), Gitta Paetzold, who says the second quarter of 2021 revealed a national average occupancy of just 23.7%.

This is compared to almost 54% in the pre-pandemic 2019 year.

Paetzold said in 2020 the second quarter revealed an all-time low occupancy of barely 4.5%. These were the months of April to June, being the near lock-down months with travel bans in Namibia, she explained.

Namibians made up the bulk of the guests during the 2021 second quarter (53.8%), followed by 15.13% from Namibia's key source market of Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

In 2019 these figures were 26.48% and 29.12% respectively.

Long road ahead

She said while Namibia seems to be slowly emerging from the most challenging time of the Covid-19 pandemic, the tourism sector still has a long and hard road ahead to full recovery.

“So, while we are definitely on our way up, the road is long and hopes for a speedy recovery and positive high season, which would have started in July this year, were smothered by the current high-risk status imposed on Namibia in terms of international travel advisory.”

Paetzold said Namibia is still listed as a "high risk and virus variant status", which is a strong travel barrier at international level.

However, the hope is that information on the decreasing Covid-19 numbers, increasing vaccinations and improved and strengthened state at health facilities will send out positive messages across the globe and lead to Namibia being categorised as a low-risk travel destination.

“We are not near any form of new normality or profitable levels for tourism as yet at all, and it will definitely take huge and united national efforts to get Namibia's tourism sector back on its feet.”

Vaccination offers hope

Paetzold said Han and most people in tourism believe that the concerted and joint efforts by all to rally behind the Namibian national vaccination campaign is a perfect way to work towards unlocking the restrictions and limitations posed by the virus.

Meanwhile data from the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), shows that between January and May international tourist arrivals were 85% below the 2019 levels, or a 65% drop from 2020 levels.

It says despite a slight uptick in May, the emergence of Covid-19 variants and the continued imposition of restrictions are weighing on the recovery of international travel.

However, it adds that domestic travel continues to rebound in many parts of the world.

The latest data indicates that over the first five months of the year, world destinations recorded fewer arrivals (overnight visitors), compared to the same period in 2020. This is 460 million less than the pre-pandemic year of 2019.

However, it shows a relatively small upturn in May with arrivals declining by 82% compared to May 2019, after falling 86% in April.

This slight upward trend emerged as some destinations started to ease restrictions and consumer confidence increased slightly, according to UNWTO.

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