• August 15th, 2020

Six lessons for the tourism sector post Covid-19

Mufaro Nesongano
Winston Churchill once said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” A quick look at the situation within the Namibian tourism sector reveals that it is going through an unprecedented period that requires it to re-engineer itself. Digu 
//Naobeb, Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) CEO was recently quoted as saying that 6 000 vehicles for car hire companies are parked, more than 28 businesses have closed, and more than 1200 employees have lost their jobs. The reality is that no one has all the solutions faced by the sector. Though amidst this crisis, there are possible lessons to learn which can be explored and taken advantage of. 

Quite recently, South Africa Tourism hosted a webinar titled “Tourism Recovery Plan”. During the webinar, there were some useful lessons that were shared that could be of use to the Namibian tourism sector post Covid-19.  

To get the best out of the sector going forth, the fundamentals need to be right, and one of the critical fundamentals is making it easier for travellers to acquire visas. Thus far, the Namibian government should be applauded for having started with such a project in September 2019 where over 60 countries with nearly half being from the African continent can receive their tourist visas on arrival. The government could, therefore, look at adding more countries onto the list to increase Namibia’s visitors’ base.  

Post Covid-19 countries need to work on their messaging to take advantage of their distinct offerings. Quite recently, Bernd Schneider, chairman of the Namibia Tourism Association (NTA) said something interesting. He emphasised that Namibia is known as the country with wide-open spaces, which in itself have not been lost or will change post Covid-19. Considering that social distancing will be the norm for some months to come, as a country, Namibia can capitalise on its wide-open spaces that offer social distancing to whoever wants to visit. 

The sector needs to harness the power of technology if it’s to take advantage of travellers that use technology for most of their travel arrangements and decision making. For instance, a travel app such as LEFA can greatly assist tourists searching for reliable transport. In contrast, PayToday can assist in making various payments for different types of products and services more accessible. With the world pushing towards harnessing technology as a way of life, different companies can look at creating their apps or better yet making use of the apps already in existence. For example, in February 2020, there were 687 000 Facebook users in Namibia with that figure growing to 711 000 in March 2020. This is the potential reach that companies have at their disposal. 

Something that came out firmly was the need for tapping into new markets or tackling the current markets that have not received the necessary attention. The international markets that have driven the tourism sector will not disappear overnight. However, post Covid-19, there is an opportunity to look at emerging markets that could become significant contributors to Namibia’s GDP in years to come. Equally, increasing the visibility within the SADC region is an opportunity the sector can look at considering ease of market access. 

Business model 
With the disruption that Covid-19 has brought, there is a need to rethink the current business models. For instance, if domestic travellers were a segment that as an operator you did not pay much attention to, this is an opportunity to do so. Equally, if the pricing of products or activities was a hindrance for the domestic market to visit, offering discounted rates, or loyalty programmes, could be some of the ideas operators could look into to grow their local market share.  

The last lesson was that if the tourism sector wants to get out of this crisis more robust, it would need to strengthen the current partnerships that exist. Through alliances, great opportunities to collaborate can be explored. Opportunities that exist are media houses working with different establishments to create campaigns that can improve the sentiment of the sector amongst local travellers. Other partnerships could involve the use of social media influencers to market one’s product or service more visible to a broader audience. There are many other partnerships that could be created, which reminds us of the African proverb that says “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”   
*Mufaro Nesongano holds an Honours degree in Journalism and Communications with 17 years of experience and is currently pursuing his Masters in Journalism and Media Technology. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer.   

Staff Reporter
2020-04-17 10:17:15 | 3 months ago

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