The Covid-19 outbreak has brought the N$26 billion local tourism and hospitality industry to its knees. The sector employs thousands of people who are now forced to sit at home due to the strict lockdown regulations imposed by government. Namibia has so far 16 confirmed cases of Covid-19.
Speaking at the Covid-19 communication centre, environment and tourism minister Pohamba Shifeta yesterday revealed the pandemic has directly and indirectly affected about 125 000 workers.
This situation, he says, has seen many accommodation facilities sending people home because business has come to a standstill.
“It has an impact on the general economy. Tourism generates more than N$26 billion on GDP annually. You won’t have that money. It is threatening our livelihood,” Shifeta noted.
Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) CEO Digu //Naobeb said the tourism industry is currently in a stage of shutdown as businesses have come to a standstill, except some hotels.
He announced that about 6 000 rental vehicles in the industry are parked, as there are no travellers to hire them.
About 28 businesses have reported to NTB that they closed down, while 1 200 workers have been sent home due to the pandemic.
//Naobeb suspects more businesses have closed down and sent many workers home.
He said Namibia’s six top overseas travellers that are heavily affected by the Covid-19 pandemic are United Kingdom, United States, France, Italy, China and Germany. Namibia banned all international, regional and domestic travel due to the global impact of Covid-19. Equally, he said, international tourism statistics that are not different from Namibia indicate that if lockdown continues until end of April, businesses are likely to make sales of up to 25%, equivalent to sales of 2019.
“If it is extended to end of May, they will make similarly sales of last year, which is 5%. And if it is up to June, they will make 2% of sales they made in 2019. And with 2%, it means most businesses will be closed for business depending on its characteristics,” he explained. He said it is too early to project the losses the tourism and hospitality industry has incurred due to Covid-19. //Naobeb says if the lockdown is extended beyond April, then there is a need to relax some regulations to allow local travellers to save the tourism and hospitality industry that is currently hard hit by the pandemic.
Locally, government also put partial lockdown measures for Khomas and Erongo regions, which is expected to lapse on Thursday. Shifeta maintained Covid-19 has negatively impacted community conservation, as there is no trophy hunting, which brings income to conservancies protecting wildlife.
For Namibia, Federation of Namibian Tourism Associations (FENATA), current estimates are that there is going to be a significant decline in revenue for this year and it is certain we will see closures of business entities and job losses
FENATA chairman Bernd Schneider called on government not to restrict local tourism travel as long as health measures are taken into consideration and social distancing regulations by tour operators, hotels, lodges and restaurants to ensure the risk of infection for both staff and visitors are kept to a minimum.
He said FENATA is working closely with various stakeholders, including the finance ministry to see how the emergency economic stimulus package can benefit those affected in the tourism and hospitality industry during these trying times.