Shifeta pushes 'introspection'
Much of what was gained over the past 30 years, in terms of the upward trajectory of Namibia's tourism industry, has been lost in just over four months.
13 August 2020 | Tourism
The coronavirus pandemic brings an opportunity for the tourism sector to introspect and engage on how it can be improved.
This is according to tourism minister Pohamba Shifeta, who recently spoke at the launch of the Tourism Statistical Report of 2019. The report showed that foreign arrivals to Namibia increased by 1.3% from 2018 to 2019 to 1.68 million, and tourist numbers increased by 2.5% to 1.59 million for the same period.
Shifeta said the success Namibia has made in the tourism industry is at risk of being reversed due to the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic, which has ravaged not only the global tourism industry, but also Namibia's sector.
“Much of what we gained over the past 30 years has become lost in just over four months.”
Doing their utmost
Shifeta, however, assured that the ministry is doing its utmost to revive the sector and ensure that it recovers and emerges stronger.
“It is becoming clear that the coronavirus is here to stay for the foreseeable future and we need to see how best we can re-establish the tourism sector without jeopardising public health in the context of the new normal.”
Shifeta said the current situation, however, does allow for introspection and engaging on how to make the tourism sector more fit for the future.
“Now is the time for difficult questions. Is the product we are offering the right one, should we focus on targeted markets, what about domestic and regional tourism, do we need to move away from targeted meetings, workshops and conferences?”
Shifeta said there are still underdeveloped opportunities in the sector and around the world, as people are looking for authentic experiences, which Namibia is well-positioned to benefit from due to its diversity of products.
Balancing health and economy
Shifeta added that the tourism revival initiative, which commenced on 3 August, is a way to balance health and the economy, but most importantly, it is designed to try and save the more than 120 000 jobs in the industry. Shifeta said until this year, the tourism sector had shown remarkable resilience to economic recession and crises by continuing to grow its contribution to the economy each year.
The increase in tourist arrivals helped the tourism sector to contribute massively to Namibia's gross domestic product, he said. “We have seen increasing tourism-based entrepreneurs being established in recent years and Namibia has truly emerged as a tourism destination of choice for people from around the world.”
Shifeta added that the increase in tourist arrivals has further triggered much-needed growth in the sector, including investment in infrastructure, human resource development and job opportunities across its wide value chain.