Tourism minister Pohamba Shifeta has warned the recovery of the sector is expected to take two to four years to return to 2019 levels.
The 2019 tourist statistical report highlights a slight increase of 1.3% of 1 681 336 foreign travellers to Namibia compared to the previous year (2018). The tourist arrivals increased by 2.5% from 1 557 279 in 2018 to 1 595 973 in 2019.
Despite the borders in Namibia and many other countries having opened, Shifeta noted the fallout from the pandemic would continue to impact the recovery well beyond 2021.
Statistics showed that international tourist arrivals to Namibia declined by 87% in 2020 and this is such a major shock that translated into a massive loss of over 1 000 jobs, with some establishments having closed completely, while others have not opened and some are gradually opening.
For the government, he said, 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.
He attributed the prolonged recovery to travel restrictions, the economic environment, and lack of coordinated responses among countries and low consumer confidence, and slow containment of the virus.
Namibia received 1 462 tourists through Hosea Kutako International Airport from September to December 2020.
With the third wave of Covid-19 infections looming, Shifeta emphasised 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 would bounce back due to its resilient nature. Our commitment is to make both domestic and international travel safe again for the recovery and benefit of the tourism sector,” he said while addressing tourism stakeholders.
As part of the tourism revival initiative, various avenues for research were identified to best achieve both the short-term and long-term goals of the broader recovery effort.
The survey and analysis that would culminate in a strategy to rebuild Namibia’s tourism sector were done with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The recovery strategy is expected to deliver on mitigating the socio-economic impacts of Covid-19 on livelihoods; boosting competitiveness and building resilience; advancing innovation and digital transformation of tourism.
It also aims to foster sustainable and green growth, and coordination and partnerships to restart and transform the sector in a responsible and coordinated manner.
Shifeta announced the ministry also plans to come up with a clear worked-out private-public partnership for the tourism recovery plan.
“There is a need for tourism education, special product development and co-operation between different institutions. We are also going to embark on the development of a special incentive programme to stimulate travel,” he stated.
He made a plea to tourism providers to create enticing packages that will go a long way in getting Namibians to explore the country and become a cushion for the industry, especially in times of crisis and low seasons.
As it is evident from Covid-19, he said Namibia cannot continue to put all its hopes and dependency on international tourism even if it recovers.
“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,” Shifeta appealed.
Welcome… Namibia’s tourism road to recovery distant.
Photo: Emmency Nuukala