Tourism industry on pins and needles

Renewed enthusiasm to get vaccinated will get us out of what is probably the worst time for tourism, the Hospitality Association of Namibia CEO said.

02 July 2021 | Tourism

ELLANIE SMIT







WINDHOEK

Namibia has suffered millions in losses since June due to tourist cancellations, with new travel restrictions announced this week.

CEO of the Hospitality Association of Namibia (Han), Gitta Paetzold, said the announcement of the new restrictions made by President Hage Geingob on Wednesday was to be expected.

Geingob announced that no travel will be permitted between regions, however, travel within regions will be permitted. It was further announced that all road and air public transport operators will not be permitted to travel between regions, including long-haul operators and aircraft. Under these restrictions, tourists may, however, enter a zone for tourism purposes if they present a negative PCR test result upon entry into the country.

According to Paetzold, the tourism industry had a trial run of what was to come over the past two weeks with the Khomas Region travel restrictions.

“While we fully agree and support that such stringent measures are absolutely necessary to bring down the spike of Covid-19 transmissions, we would like to appeal to all Namibians to strictly adhere to the measures, such as social distancing, wearing masks and hygiene, so that we can stop the spread of the virus.”

She said only when this is achieved can Namibia hope to present itself as a safe travel destination again.

“This together with renewed enthusiasm to get vaccinated will get us out of what is probably the worst time for tourism in the past 15 months.”

Millions of losses

Paetzold said the sector already suffered losses of millions in cancellations of tourists who planned to visit Namibia from July to September. According to her, it will be very difficult to make up for these losses before the end of the year.

“We are thus grateful that in announcing the strict measures, government reiterated that there will be special dispensation for tourists to allow them to conduct their tours as planned through Namibia under the existing public health measures, and we are keen to see that all authorities and law enforcers, including those at the road blocks, will provide the necessary customer service and guidance to tourists to ensure that the few still in the country and those coming in the next few weeks will have a pleasant experience and be able to share this and market our country as a safe and ideal destination going forward.”

Not looking good

Joseph Kafunda, the chairperson of the Emerging Tourism Enterprise Association, said the restrictions do not look good for the tourism industry.

“We need to understand what the measures are that have been put in place for tourism. Are we allowed to travel between regions? It restricts you from all road and air transport, so we need to understand exactly what is the way forward for tourism. We need more clarity.”

He added that government also needs to fight for the tourism sector internationally. “In July, I had two tours, both cancelled. August cancelled, now I have September, I am hoping it will be better.

“Everyone is losing hope; we are losing houses, cars, businesses to collaterals. And the banks are not being understanding that we are facing a pandemic and some of us have not worked for a year and nine months,” he said.

Meanwhile, Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR) spokesperson Mufaro Nesongano said it is important to acknowledge that the current situation the tourism sector finds itself in is unprecedented and that the government in its wisdom has done its utmost best to manage the health of fellow countrymen and -women to ensure that the livelihood of the nation is sustained under these challenging circumstances.

“We are in full support of them. As for our customers who redeemed their Black Friday vouchers, these have been extended until 31 August. We sincerely believe that this should provide sufficient time for our clients to travel.”

He added that the domestic tourism market has been incredibly supportive towards NWR’s specials during this period.

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