President Hage Geingob believes real leisure industry recovery will only be possible when international tourism returns to pre-Covid-19 levels. The tourism sector has been one of the hardest hit sectors due to travel restrictions as well as a slump in demand among travellers as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. By the end of the third quarter of last year, 64% of Namibian businesses reported a revenue loss of over 50%.
The hardest hit was the tourism (including restaurants and hotels), manufacturing, transport and construction sectors. Geingob, who yesterday officially opened the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Brand Africa Regional Tourism Conference, highlighted Namibia’s tourism industry plays a critical role in the country’s economy.
“Tourism, therefore, continues to be one of the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic and the outlook remains highly uncertain,” he noted. Namibia last week suffered another heavy blow after the country was classified as a high-risk destination due to an upsurge in new infections and deaths related to the pandemic.
The Centres for Disease Control (CDC) issued a warning to travellers against travelling to Namibia due to the escalating Covid-19 cases, placing the country under alert level number four.
Nevertheless, Geingob said it is befitting that Namibia was chosen as the host for UNWTO Africa Regional Conference. “The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic has severely interrupted international travel, thereby significantly impacting the tourism industry. However, domestic tourism can only partially compensate for the loss of inbound tourism,” Geingob said.
In this regard, he believes the effective implementation of the UNWTO Agenda for Africa 2030 – Tourism for Inclusive Growth, is
more pertinent than ever.
According to the United Nations, “Tourism employs one in every 10 people on Earth and provides livelihoods to hundreds of millions more.” For many developed and developing countries, the tourism sector is a major source of employment, government revenue and foreign exchange earnings.
Without this vital lifeline, Geingob stressed many countries are experiencing a dramatic contraction in the gross domestic product (GDP) and a rise in unemployment and Namibia is no exception.
During the planning stages of the tourism revival initiative strategy, the Namibian tourism sector has relied on domestic tourism, which has sustained jobs and businesses in some destinations. In an attempt to revive the economy through tourism and hospitality sectors, Namibia has managed to attract 23 997 tourists since the launch of the country’s international tourism revival initiative, which commenced on 1 September 2020. Namibia recorded a decline of about 87% in international tourist arrivals in 2020 and a loss of thousands of jobs.
Geingob indicated post-Covid-19 tourism level recovery also requires global cooperation and evidence-based solutions that will enable the safe lifting of travel restrictions.
“In the aftermath of the pandemic, our ability to foster resilience within tourism will be key to ensuring not only the sustained growth of this sector but also enhance preparedness for any future shocks,” Geingob remarked. Therefore, he encouraged all to be cognizant of the value of strong dialogue between government, industry, and civil society in the development, implementation and monitoring phases of comprehensive tourism policies.