Youth key to tourism recovery
This is according to tourism minister Pohamba Shifeta, who opened the fourth Africa Youth in Tourism Innovation Summit and challenge on Wednesday in Windhoek.
He said too often tourism development in Africa is damaged by negative perceptions and misconceptions.
However, the continent is a safe, peaceful and stable destination that is characterised by high-class infrastructure and unique cultural diversity and a myriad of tourism attractions, he added.
Shifeta therefore expressed hope that the hosting of this summit will position Namibia strategically as a preferred destination for business events and further promote intra-Africa travel and tourism as well as improved cooperation between African states on tourism matters.
“Tourism was the third highest world category in export earnings in 2015, representing 10% of world gross domestic product [GDP], 30% of services exports and one out of every 10 jobs in the world.”
According to the minister, a plethora of decent work opportunities exist in the tourism sector - particularly for youth and women - and policies that favour better diversification through tourism value chains can positively enhance tourism socio-economic impacts.
Billions of dollars
The tourist satellite account report of 2015 placed the total travel and tourism contribution to the economy at about N$15 billion, representing 10.2% of GDP, Shifeta said.
The total tourism contribution to the economy almost doubled in 2019 to about N$28.8 billion, he added, growing to about 15.3% of GDP before the country experienced a downward trajectory in 2020.
“This is due to the outbreak of Covid-19, which caused its contribution to slow down to only about N$16.8 billion (9.8% of GDP) in 2020, according to the world travel and tourism Namibia country report of 2021.”
He pointed out that around 60% of Africa’s population is under 25 years old.
“Our young demography is a powerful comparative advantage and we need to equip our young people with skills and capital so that they are the main drivers and beneficiaries of industries such as tourism.”
The minister added that the youth are important agents of change in any society and especially in the tourism sector.
“Your creativity and innovation are valuable assets required at this point in history to leverage digitalisation to transform the tourism economy to increase its performance and contribution to GDP.”
United Nations resident coordinator Sen Pang said the summit was established to nurture African youth, start-ups, small enterprises and accelerate initiatives to pursue opportunities across the global tourism ecosystem to become industry change-makers and future industry leaders.
“Africa has a unique opportunity to invest in its young human capital and reap the potential social and economic benefits," he said.
“Now is the time to transform and invest in quality education that provides youth with the new skills with critical and design thinking that are required to drive the transformative changes needed in the Africa we want.”