WALVIS BAY – Despite emerging from a prolonged coronavirus-imposed lockdown, businesses in Swakopmund, Arandis and Walvis Bay still have to deal with the financial strain brought on by the pandemic.
President Hage Geingob last week Friday lifted travel restrictions at the three towns after almost three months.
Businesses, especially those in the hospitality industry, can allow people to wine and dine according to the current stage three state of emergency regulations, while the country also opened its international airport to allow inbound tourists to enter the country as of yesterday.
However, business operators feel the two-week travel restrictions imposed in Windhoek has a direct impact on trade.
“A lot of business comes through Windhoek suppliers and services, and the current situation in Windhoek does not do us any good. It is still not worth it, although we welcome the fact that we can trade again; and [we] are staying positive,” said Annete Kotting from the Hospitality Association of Namibia.
She further explained that non-tourism-related businesses will also suffer, as people are currently watching what they spend, while keeping a close eye on the country’s economy.
“People lost jobs and went through salary cuts; hence, basic needs will come before anything else – and it is not only at the coast or in Namibia, but it is something that the whole world is going through,” she added.
Import and export trader Jason Hangula said his business took a nosedive, as he simply could not trade due to stock that is stuck at warehouses overseas because of travel restrictions. “Trading was just bad overall for us. Items that could be shipped took way too long, as vessels were denied entry at some ports. We could not sell or order anything anymore. We are hoping the situation will change at least from next month,” he said. Travel agent Keanan Benz, however, is not optimistic that tourism activity would pick up anytime soon.
“Allowing people to enter the country is one thing. One should rather ask if people are willing to travel now that our Covid-19 cases are also increasing or do they have money to travel, as Covid-19 affects the whole world,” said Benz, who said the sector might expect some activity around October.
Local business personality Paul Ndjambula also said businesses overall will be able to resume their operations at a slow pace, apart from the tourism and hospitality industry. “At this stage, industries that will take longer to recover, especially hospitality and tourism, need to look at other ways to keep them afloat – at least until international tourism increases,” he said.
He explained Covid-19 highlighted the importance of attracting domestic tourists by offering discounted rates and packages that will encourage Namibians to explore the country.
“It is not that Namibians don’t want to travel but our rates mainly focus on international tourists who makes it unaffordable for Namibians overall,” he said.
Carol-Ann Möller, owner of Namibia Dolphin & Seal Catamaran Cruises, also said the travel restrictions imposed in Windhoek do not do the coast any good in all aspects, especially from a trading and tourism perspective.
“Windhoek is key for us to do business, and it is the entry point to the coast, which is the tourist hub. Most of our standing clients do not see the need to go in quarantine for seven days in Windhoek, as it cuts deep in their travelling budget as well,” she said.
Many others echoed there is, indeed, a long road ahead for the coast to recover from the effects of Covid-19 that brought along the continued lockdown, resulting in massive job losses.