Namibia faces worst travel risk status

Only a concerted and combined effort by all can rescue Namibia’s tourism industry, the Hospitality Association of Namibia says.

12 July 2021 | Tourism

ELLANIE SMIT

WINDHOEK

Currently Namibia finds itself in the worst risk status as a travel destination, highest risk with variant status, having caused severe travel warnings and advisories against the country.

This was said by the outgoing chairperson of the Hospitality Association of Namibia (Han), Shepherd Chinhoi, in his chairman’s report last week at the organisation’s AGM.

“This is while we suffer alarming rates of Covid-19 transmissions, which has seen our health facilities overwhelmed,” he said.

He said that it is only through a concerted and combined effort by all that the industry would be able to get out of the very difficult situation they are in at the moment.

“By all ensuring that we do adhere to all the rules and guidelines, including the wearing of masks, sanitisation and social distancing measures and that we stand firmly to not only carry out these basic practices ourselves, but that we ensure that both our staff and guests show respect to the new rules of engagement that the pandemic has called for.”

Chinhoi said another key factor that the tourism sector has a commitment to support is the national, regional and global efforts towards fighting the virus through the vaccination initiatives rolled out across the globe, to reach a certain level of herd immunity that would ensure the safety of both our people as well as the guests visiting from other destinations.

“While all due respect should be granted to the freedom of choice in terms of vaccinations, the tourism industry across the globe has accepted the fact that the most effective way out of the pandemic and into a new, safer environment for the international travel sector would be a 60-70% of herd immunity, or fully vaccinated status of the global population,” he said.

Chinhoi said an element that still deserves attention and perfection is the level of prompt, concise and transparent communication from decision makers and legislators, to ensure that the industries, not only tourism, but all other economic sectors too are able to respond to new regulations and inform international partners and clients of the impact such new measures have.

“Over the past months we have witnessed a race for news, and unfortunately, this has also resulted in a lot of unconfirmed, unauthorised and fake news making the rounds, - where focus has been on speed, rather than specifics and authority confirmation.”

Worst year

Referring to the Han tourism accommodation occupancy reports, Chinhoi said the year 2020 saw the national total room occupancy drop to an unprecedented 16.37% compared to over 53% in 2019.

He said that given the international travel bans and restrictions, the occupancies enjoyed during 2020 were predominantly by Namibians traveling their own country, with over 60% of all rooms occupied by Namibians, compared to below 30% during normal times.

“The domestic tourism market has thus helped keep our lights on, and the water flowing, - and helped keep the morale of our staff and managers at an acceptable level, which in itself has been very important.”

However, it has to be noted that local business has been offered at attractively low rates, which resulted in much lower income levels, than the occupancy percentages may have earned in normal times, he pointed out.

Chinhoi said that since Han was founded in 1987 with an initial 16 members, it has matured to approximately 400 members at the start of 2020, representing the full spectrum of the hospitality industry, from hotels, to guest houses, guest farms, lodges, rest camps, restaurants, conference centres and catering services.

He said associate membership is further held by suppliers to the sector as well as tourism publishers, training institutions and marketing companies.

“With only four official cancellations received last year, but also five new applications, it is safe to state that Han’s status quo in terms of representation has remained the same, although we all need to prepare ourselves for major changes in a post-covid era, not only for Han, but for the entire tourism industry.”

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