WINDHOEK – Namibia must demonstrate to the rest of the world that it is a safe place to visit, amid threats to the tourism sector such as the possible outbreak of Ebola and frequent hepatitis E episodes, as well as crime targeting tourists.
This was said by the Minister of Environment and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta, during the Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) stakeholders network session yesterday. In 2017, Shifeta said international tourist arrivals to Namibia grew to a new record of 1.32 million tourists compared to 1.23 million tourists in 2016.
Similarly, he noted international tourist arrivals to Africa grew from 57.4 million in 2016 to 62 million in 2017, which was an 8 percent increase.
The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) forecasts show that the number of international arrivals to Africa is expected to increase more than double, growing from 62 million in 2017 to 134 million in 2030.
This, he says, will increase the global market share of Africa by seven percent.
“What is important to note is that we had growth in all major markets. We can attribute the rising tide to the hard work of all of us. But equally, it is also the work that NTB has done in collaboration with its partners in reaching out to key markets over the years, both locally and internationally,” Shifeta said.
He says the over-arching goal is to position Namibia as a preferred destination that offers quality products and services. He stated it is often said that Namibia has great tourism potential and that Africa is a destination for the future. “We have to make the time for Namibia now.”
Therefore, he said, Namibia must ensure that the quality of products and services provided by the service providers corresponds to the branding strategy of the country to be able to attract and retain tourists.
Additionally, he said, stakeholders must showcase Namibia’s diverse products and services, and put in place measures geared towards expanding the market share by offering new products, expanding tourist expenditure per capita and improving its international marketing strategies. According to him, this growth has delivered many benefits to communities across the country.
These, he says, include employment opportunities, improved transport linkages and a wider range of services and amenities in local communities.
However, he said, it has also brought a number of challenges such as the increasing congestion (in particular at Sossusvlei area) and pressure on infrastructure (especially the gravel roads), which can frustrate local communities and diminish the experience of visitors. Equally, he added criminal activities against visitors are a concern, which requires everyone’s concerted efforts to combat.
Furthermore, Shifeta said the desire to visit Namibia by international travellers has increased, hence the need to upgrade Hosea Kutako International Airport (HKIA) to meet the expectations of airlines.
“We are all aware of the emergency measures taken by Cabinet to ensure the upgrade of HKIA. These measures are to ensure that Namibia remains safe and our airport conforms to international standards.”
However, he suggests that in order to fulfill Namibia’s potential, key challenges such as infrastructure development, travel visa facilitation and the full usage of modern technologies to maximize marketing and services need to be addressed.
He noted that infrastructural concerns such as airport carrying capacities, road and rail networks, ports and telecommunication are already being addressed.
Furthermore, he said the success of tourism as a driver of sustainable development will, therefore, depend on policies and strategies for trade and investment that meet the sector’s needs, and create an overall business environment that is conducive for growth.