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Long road ahead for local tourism

2020-12-14  Albertina Nakale

Long road ahead for local tourism
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Albertina Nakale

The month of October has recorded a notable room and bed occupancy with 15%, compared to 5-7% between July and September, which are the traditional high season months for tourism. The majority of foreign visitors were from central Europe.

However, compared to previous years, Namibia is still far off the norm in terms of tourism business. October 2019 showed an almost 70% occupancy and with the average break-even point for establishments at about 40-45%, the current 15% is still far away from the desired business flow to the country.

The CEO of Hospitality Association of Namibia (HAN) Gitta Paetzold said the industry is doing in general and on tourist arrivals in Namibia, which has been progressing since the tourism revival initiative was rolled out.

“Many properties have since mid-year,  been offering domestic specials for Namibians, which saw an impressive number of Namibians explore their own country – be it by visiting the national parks or other iconic lodges and sites across the country,” she stated.   

This, according to Paetzold, has brought some relief to the tourism sector, which has been without income since mid-March, although the financial situation of Namibians, as well as their desire and interest to spend on tourism remains limited and the return of international travelers, thus it is vital to save the tourism sector.

While there are no definite figures on the number of tourism establishments still fully or partially closed since the travel ban in March, HAN estimated that less than half of the over 3 000 entities have resumed full operation.

“We sincerely hope that the travel numbers will gradually increase, and are positively optimistic, given the news from the German airline, but it is expected that worldwide, the travel industry will take at least two years or more to reach the numbers of 2019. So the road to recovery will be a long and hard one,” she said.
What makes the recovery even more challenging is the fact that operational costs seem to increase, with little sign of relief from any sector – be it electricity, water, telecommunication or any other cost factor that has bearing on the service provider in tourism.  

HAN has been lobbying for relief for its members and the industry in general from banks, insurances and ICT providers. However, Paetzold said the pandemic seems to have negatively impacted all sectors and providers, which results in the general inability or willingness to provide discounts and relief. On its part, HAN has decided to exempt its members from paying membership fees for the upcoming financial year, while doubling its commitment to lobby for the interests of tourism accommodation and the revival of tourism in Namibia.  

“A challenge, which we are willing to tackle, convinced that if there is one country that can succeed with tourism revival post-Covid, it is Namibia, as this country simply has what it takes – wide open spaces, freedom to move, a small population, fresh air, and great climatic conditions that assist in curbing the spread of the virus. We are looking forward to a better 2021 for tourism, easy to achieve when comparing numbers to 2020, but we do know that recovering to levels of 2019 will take years,” Paetzold indicated. 

She said Namibia has been welcoming back international tourists since mid-September at the start of the Tourism Revival Initiative, and some 5 000 travelers have come to Namibia since then. 

2020-12-14  Albertina Nakale

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