The 2019 tourist statistical report shows that the tourism sector was still healthy and showing slight growth. It shows that foreign tourist arrivals increased by 1.3% from 2018 to 2019 and tourist figures increased by 2.5% for the same period. Launching the report yesterday, environment and tourism minister Pohamba Shifeta revealed it is notable a record of 1,68 million foreign tourists visited Namibia in 2019.
The figures indicate visitors from Angola, South Africa, Zambia, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom dominated the tourist arrivals to Namibia in 2019. The period September – December accounted for the most arrivals with 34.4% of all tourists traveling to Namibia in this period. Until this year, Shifeta noted the sector showed remarkable resilience to economic recession and crises by continuing to grow its contribution to the economy year after year. He said the increase in tourist arrivals helped the tourism sector to contribute massively to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“We have seen increasing numbers of tourism-based enterprises being established in recent years and Namibia has truly emerged as a tourism destination of choice for people from around the world. The increase in tourist arrivals has further triggered much needed growth in the sector including investment in infrastructure and human resource development and job opportunities across its wide value chain,” Shifeta stated.
Unfortunately, he said this success was carefully nurtured since independence is now at the risk of being reversed. The unprecedented challenges brought by Covid-19 have ravaged the global tourism sector and Namibia has not been spared. “Much of what we have gained over the past 30 years has become lost in just over four months,” he reacted. However, he reassured the industry and inform the general public at large that the Ministry of Environment, Forestry, and Tourism is doing its utmost to revive the sector and to ensure that it recovers and emerges stronger after the shocks that have been caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to him, it is becoming clearer every day that Covid-19 is here to stay for the foreseeable future and there is a need to see how best the industry can re-establish the tourism sector without jeopardising public health in the context of the “new normal”. Further, he admitted this is a difficult balancing act that is currently confronting many countries globally and Namibia is no exception. However, he said the ministry is committed to doing everything in its power to get the sector back on track, adding the current situation does allow them to introspect on the sector and to engage on how to make it fitter for the future.
“Now is the time for difficult questions – is the product we are offering the right one, should we focus on targeted markets, what about domestic and regional tourism, do we need to move away from targeting meetings, workshops and conferences?” he interrogated. President Hage Geingob announced the tourism revival initiative, which commenced on 3 August, subject to the agreed and approved protocols. This initiative is a way of balancing health and the economy. It also aims to save jobs for more than 120 000 people in the industry.
Article by: Albertina Nakale – NEPC