Signs of tourism recovery

20 April 2021 | Tourism

ELLANIE SMIT

WINDHOEK

The latest tourism accommodations statistics indicate that occupancy rates for the first quarter of this year dropped to below 20%, but there are signs of recovery with almost 18% of that figure being Europeans.

In the first quarter of 2020 occupancy rates stood at 33% compared to 40% in 2019, while this year it was only 19.5%.

However, the statistics spark hope that the Tourism Revival Initiative embarked on in September 2020 is bearing fruit, especially when considering, that 12.8% of these guests came from Namibia's key source market of Germany, Austria and Switzerland despite the stringent travel restrictions still in place in those markets.

The statistics are compiled by the Hospitality Association of Namibia (Han) and are based on monthly reports received from Han members.

Han CEO Gitta Paetzold says last year’s first-quarter tourism statistics showed less of an impact of the coronavirus pandemic than this year because they were compiled before travel bans and lockdowns were imposed in mid-March 2020.

She says 2019 was the last normal tourism year that can be used as a benchmark for recovery.

Domestic tourism

Namibians making use of local tourism accommodation facilities used to constitute around 32% of the total occupancy. In contrast, domestic tourism accounted for over 67% of all accommodation services in the first quarter of this year, said Paetzold.

She says it is interesting to note that the South African percentage of occupancy in Namibia's accommodation sector remained at a steady 8 to 9% throughout the three years, while the rest of the SADC region and Africa constituted a low 1.05% in the first three months of this year.

This is in comparison to the 6.8% that African travellers to Namibia made up of all occupancy in 2019.

“Namibian tourism is on a long road to recovery, and the tourism sector is convinced that with full political will, as urged by the World Travel Organisation (UNWTO), commitment and cooperation, tourism revival can be achieved in the long run.”

She says current issues requiring urgent attention to enhance tourism recovery include clear and factual information on and support for Namibia's vaccination and testing capacity and monitoring international trends on vaccination passes.

Paetzold says it is also important that clear and updated information on cross-border travel protocols, be shared, especially in the KAZA region and to South Africa.

She added that the resumption of flight routes to specific destinations, both within Namibia and outside, to replace the void left by Air Namibia requires urgent attention and that Namibian authorities should engage with the international aviation trade to entice the return of flights to Namibia as soon as demand picks up.

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