• July 4th, 2020

Coronavirus to hit local tourism hard

The local tourism industry is one of the sectors that are hard hit by the global outbreak of the coronavirus. The Hospitality Association of Namibia (HAN) says the pandemic has resulted in major cancellations, especially business meetings and conferencing. 

Over the weekend, the health minister Dr Kalumbi Shangula announced that two Romanians who travelled to Namibia last week tested positive for coronavirus. The couple were immediately quarantined and contact tracing has since commenced. HAN CEO Gitta Paetzold told New Era that some major companies and organisations, including SADC, have cancelled call conferencing. “Our industry is currently feeling the storm, worse than anyone could have anticipated a few weeks, or even days ago,” she reacted. 
She said renowned and successful operators feel as a “worst-case scenario”, they expecting a decline of 50% of the tourism business this year in Namibia.

“Fact is that tourism is in for a very hard time this year, and we have been urged to engage authorities and government to assist, where possible, to keep tourism companies afloat and avoid major job losses,” she remarked. 

The appeal from tourism to authorities or government is to consider incentives, tax breaks on registered tourism entities, to help them overcome the acute cash-flow that is envisaged, as business, even if not cancelled, is being postponed, with the likelihood of no, or only limited income for the rest of year. 

“One saving grace is that Namibia is currently still in low tourism season.  So, the low numbers are not reflective of corona, but we have seen massive cancellations and the lack of forward bookings, of over 33% compared to the standard rate of bookings at this time of the year.  Even the postponement of travel plans to the next year in effect means that tourism business will be without income this year. Only very few companies have enough reserves and cash flow to survive such a scenario,” she observed.  

Since the outbreak, City of Windhoek also informed residents that parks and recreation facilities such as Paaltjies, public pools, informal fields, the Sam Nujoma stadium, the Goreangab Dam recreational facility will be closed to the public for the next 30 days. All bookings of these facilities over the next 30 days have been cancelled.  The city says this is to support government’s efforts to limit public gatherings with the coronavirus pandemic. 

SADC has since advised member states on Monday to avoid all face-to-face international meetings, and that they be replaced with skype and e-conferencing, where possible. 

Paetzold noted 35%, of people have an overall fear/hesitancy to travel at this point. “It seems that while people may not be afraid of contracting the virus when travelling to Namibia and other destinations – they fear being quarantined there on arrival, and hence don’t even want to travel.  Strange sounds to that effect have come out of Botswana lately suggesting to quarantine all incoming travellers that come from countries with confirmed corona cases, and as the situation progresses, this may be the whole world soon,” she noted. She said the tourism industry has thus urged the government to keep its borders open, and HAN is assured by the ministry of health, that for now, they are following WHO guidelines, which advised against blanket travel bans.

Screening is being done at Windhoek International, Eros, Walvis Bay airports, and the port of Walvis Bay, with the ministry extending control services to the border posts.  
Paetzold said cooperation is needed, with the advice that all suspected cases should be advised to self-quarantine, until the help of health officials for proper testing can be obtained. 
- anakale@nepc.com.na 

Albertina Nakale
2020-03-16 07:20:28 | 3 months ago

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