AFTER years of economic recession, followed by the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, government finds itself with high debts and in a difficult financial position. This leaves little space for monetary support for the tourism industry and its infrastructure.
Research associate at the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) Dietrich Remmert advised regulators to therefore prioritise helpful measures and policies that require limited finances. “Easing visa requirements and pandemic restrictions for travellers, especially those who are fully vaccinated, would be a commendable first step. Long-running issues hampering tourism, such as poor immigration services, should also be tackled with renewed vigour,” he urged in his research paper, titled ‘Namibia’s Tourism Industry Post-Covid Bounce Back, Gradual Recovery or Transformation?’ released last week.
The majority of industries comprising the Namibian economy saw negative growth in 2020, with transport and storage, manufacturing, mining and finance among those most acutely affected.
The worst impacted sector was the hospitality industry, which contracted by over 30%. As a result, land and air entry points were closed to the vast majority of travellers and other types of traffic, with only minimal exceptions being made for the transport of essential goods. Figures released by the ministry of labour in January 2022 indicated the country had lost 15 442 jobs since the start of the pandemic.
As part of the recommendations to the sector, Remmert said Namibia’s tourism enterprises, regulators, as well as the wider public, can influence and shape the country’s travel and tourism future successfully. “An early and wholehearted commitment by all stakeholders to realise the international transformative vision of the industry would give Namibia a head-start, and signal its intention for a more progressive, sustainable and socially responsible tourism sector,” he stated. Furthermore, Remmert noted that using its own experiences of greening tourism operations and balancing development with environmental protection as a basis, the country could establish a best-practice model of transformation.
While the pandemic has devastated the industry, Remmert added Covid-19 is offering an opportunity to re-think and possibly re-align existing and planned tourism operations to be fundamental, environmentally sustainable and community-centred.
According to him, the personal preferences of travellers alone do not dictate which products and services the industry is permitted to develop and promote. “Indeed, people themselves don’t often know what they really want until they have seen and experienced it. Therefore, Namibia is well placed to take advantage of the international drive towards more sustainable and conscious travel choices and shape this impending transformation to their advantage in order to improve competitiveness,” reads his paper.