Tourist arrivals drop 87%

It will take an estimated two to four years for the Namibian tourism industry to recover to 2019 levels after the devastation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

19 April 2021 | Tourism

ELLANIE SMIT

WINDHOEK



International tourist arrivals in Namibia dropped by 87% in 2020, leading to the loss of over 1 000 jobs in the tourism industry.

Some tourism establishments had to shut down for good and others are only gradually opening.

“For the government, this has caused a sharp decline in foreign exchange and tax revenues, which curbs public spending capacity and ability to deploy the measures necessary to support livelihoods through this crisis,” tourism minister Pohamba Shifeta said.

Tourism contributes over 3.5% to the GDP. Shifeta was speaking at the Fenata (Federation of Namibian Tourism Associations) Tourism Dialogue last week.

He said only 1 462 international tourists arrived at Hosea Kutako International Airport from September to December last year. This was after the International Tourism Revival Initiative (TRI) was introduced on 1 September to try and rescue the sector after the coronavirus lockdown. “Despite the borders in Namibia and many other countries being open again, the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic will continue to impact the recovery of tourism well beyond 2021,” the minister said. He said it is expected to take between two and four years for tourism to recover to 2019 levels.

According to him this is due to travel restrictions, the economic environment, lack of coordinated responses among countries, low consumer confidence and slow containment of virus.

“With the third wave [of the pandemic] looming, it is important for Namibia to rise above this challenge and make every effort available to reduce the spread of this virus while continually working on reviving the sector. We are confident that this industry will bounce back due to its resilient nature.”



Adapt or die

Shifeta said it is evident that the country cannot continue to depend on international tourism even if the sector recovers. “Lessons are that, as small as we are, need to create self-reliance. We are mindful that a significant portion of the supply market is geared for international tourism so that the pricing is unaffordable for segments of domestic travellers.

“We are appealing to this market to be innovative and adapt their products for the needs of the local market. Enticing packages will go a long way in getting Namibians to explore the country and become a cushion for this industry, especially in times of crisis and low seasons.”

Shifeta further announced that Namibia will be hosting a World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) regional conference.

“This will bring over 100 international delegates from all over the world to Namibia and present us with another opportunity to promote ourselves as a safe and WTO-compliant tourism destination.”

He said this was part of the drive for diversification and efforts to grow Namibia as a safe destination for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions.

Shifeta said as part of the TRI, various avenues for research were identified.

A survey and analysis that would culminate in a strategy to rebuild Namibia's tourism sector was done with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The recovery strategy is aimed at mitigating the socio-economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

Shifeta said they further plan to come up with a clear recovery plan for private-public partnerships in tourism.

“We are also going to embark on development of a special incentive programme to stimulate travel. We also identified intergovernmental engagement at regional level to come up with coordinated coronavirus travel protocols critical to the recovery of the sector going forward.”

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