As tourists return in numbers to explore Namibia’s unique beauty, the tourism sector is facing a shortage of vehicles for rent.
Namibia has been lauded for well-graded and easy-to-navigate roads infrastructure, and self-drive safaris have steadily increased.
The Regional Director for Africa at the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), Jillian Blackbeard, recently praised Namibia for being one of the best self-drive destinations in Africa.
In tourism terms, self-drive means renting and driving a car yourself, rather than being driven by a tour guide to your destination.
Currently, Namibian car rental companies carry a fleet of over a quarter of the about 8 000 rental vehicles they held in 2019. This is after having been forced to sell off a large part of their fleet during the two previous years due to the
impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Hospitality Association of Namibia (HAN)’s Gitta Paetzold yesterday confirmed the car rental shortage in the country.
She said vehicle production in southern Africa has been severely delayed due to supply chain interruptions caused by the pandemic, with the recent floods in KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa causing huge damage to the Toyota plant there and thus
compounding the problem.
“The tourism industry is hard at work to compensate for the shortages of cars by packaging fly-and-drive safaris,” Paetzold noted.
However, she said there is light at the end of the tunnel, as FlyNamibia this month launched its national FlyNamibia Safari route, taking guests to key tourist attractions such as Sossusvlei, Swakopmund and Etosha.
She believes this may alleviate the pressure on the need for rental vehicles, and given the rising fuel prices, may also become an affordable and safe way of transport for travellers within Namibia.
Paetzold said there is also a call for shuttle service and tour operators to come up with innovative offers for regular shuttles to some of the key destinations within Namibia.
Furthermore, careful planning, coordination and the cooperation of all stakeholders in the tourism sector are of the essence to ensure that Namibia will meet (and hopefully exceed) the expectations and increasing demand for this desirable destination.
Paetzold said the industry is optimistic about the forward bookings for the next quarter as well as Namibia’s tourism high season starting in July, with a number of establishments already recording “full bookings for the upcoming months”.
“The high demand for travel to Namibia has also been reflected in increased airline capacity, with Eurowings Discover announcing the introduction of 10 flights per week between Frankfurt and Windhoek from July, while Qatar Airways will likewise introduce three flights per week between Doha and Windhoek from the end of June,” she indicated.
HAN stated that in the first quarter of 2022, some 33% of visitors came from greater Europe (23% of whom were from the core markets Germany, Switzerland and Austria), compared to 20% of European visitors in 2021 (nearly 14% of whom were from the three core markets).
In the first quarter of 2020, visitors from greater Europe still constituted 44% (28% of whom were from the three core markets).
In the same period, the ratio of Namibians making use of tourism accommodation establishments across the country also varied, from 32% in 2020 to 64,7% in 2021, and now down to 51,71% in 2022.
In the middle to the end of March 2020, Namibia, as did the rest of the world, called for travel bans and shut borders. But that month still saw normal travellers using accommodation before being evacuated out of the country.