Tourism industry fears collapse

This year's tourism high season is unlikely to materialise, with dire consequences for the once lucrative economic sector.

17 July 2020 | Tourism

ELLANIE SMIT

WINDHOEK



The Namibian tourism industry is facing total collapse in the absence of certainty about when international travel will resume.

The sector has experienced another wave of cancellations, while aviation partners have also retracted offers to return to Namibia.

The executive committee of the Federation of Namibian Tourism Associations (Fenata) said in a statement yesterday that the industry needs reliable indications of the way forward.

“The current silence and inertia are suffocating the sector. Without a clear pronouncement and commitment to a date for resumption of travel, which would allow the industry to regain hope and start planning, tourism in Namibia is doomed to collapse,” the federation said.



Revival on ice

Namibia was expected to reopen its borders from 15 July to 15 August as a pilot phase in its tourism revival initiative.

However, tourism minister Pohamba Shifeta now says it is highly unlikely that Namibia will open its borders within this timeframe.

“The tourism industry in Namibia is estimating that there will be no tourist arrivals in the country in the next three months and that this situation will likely persist for the rest of the year,” said Shifeta.

Fenata said during the last few days the industry has seen another massive wave of cancellations of tours for August and September, traditionally the tourism high season.

“This while partners in transport and aviation that had indicated eagerness to resume connections to Namibia have now also retracted offers and delayed their return until October.”



Global impact

Fenata said the coronavirus lockdown measures have caused devastation within the global tourism sector and in Namibia the impact has been catastrophic. “Since the travel ban, income has been wiped out, not only for large companies, but also for the individual freelance operators, tour guides and street vending souvenir artists.”

Fenata said it had engaged with the government from the start to seek ways of softening the blow of the lockdown on tourism and welcomed specific efforts in the stimulus package that targeted tourism.

However, it was soon realised that the financial situation in Namibia and the duration of the global lockdowns would make it impossible to expect a financial bailout from the government.



Adapt or die

As early as March, Fenata therefore actively engaged with the tourism ministry to look at possibilities of a tourism recovery, while actively drafting special operating procedures to help prepare the tourism sector for the new demands for safe working environments, resulting in the Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) tourism toolkit.

Following active engagement and sharing of facts and the status quo, the organisation said it was delighted to see the government's willingness to open up tourism for a trial period from mid-July.

Fenata said the tourism industry in Namibia has committed itself to new protocols of hygiene and safety and has invested the little available funds remaining to this end.

Fenata and its executive therefore urge the government to demonstrate political will and understanding of the important economic impact tourism has on Namibia.

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