Local players in the tourism industry fear for the worst, saying the sector could be lost after a targeted international tourism revival initiative, which was due to start this week until 15 August, seemingly fell through.
The Federation of Namibian Tourism Associations (Fenata), in a statement yesterday, said the current silence and inaction on the part of government was further suffocating the sector. Without a clear pronouncement and commitment to a date for resumption of travel, Fenata says, would not allow the industry to regain hope and start planning, thus tourism in Namibia is doomed to collapse.
Government is yet to pronounce itself on an earlier commitment to open international travel and allow tourists from low-risk countries into the country.
Fenata said the last few days have seen another massive wave of cancellations of tours for August and September (traditionally the tourism high season) and partners in transport and aviation that had indicated eagerness to resume connections to Namibia have now also retracted offers and delayed their return until October.
“The Federation of Namibian Tourism Associations, through the active and intense support and submission from its members and key stakeholders in tourism, all of whom have invested heavily into the tourism infrastructure in Namibia, has done all it could to impress upon the leadership the necessity of allowing a careful resumption of operations to ensure the survival of the sector,” the organisation said.
Tourism and hospitality stakeholders have expressed their readiness to welcome international arrivals once Cabinet pronounces itself on the final modalities of such visitors. However, tourism minister Pohamba Shifeta expressed doubt on the issue this week, saying it was not practical to welcome tourists to the country with the current escalation of Covid-19 cases both in Namibia and globally.
He also questioned the 14-day quarantine period that government had earlier suggested for inbound travellers.
But Fenata yesterday urged the government to demonstrate political will and understanding of the important economic impact tourism has on the country.
“Just as tourism is committed to risk mitigation and safety, we need government’s commitment and support to allow us to resume operations to rescue not only our sector, but the Namibian economy as a whole. Tourism needs reliable indications of a way forward, or risks total collapse,” said Fenata.
Fenata said they were delighted to see government’s willingness to open up tourism for a trial period from mid-July, in the hope that careful deliberation and collaboration in risk mitigation would prove that Namibia was ready to provide a safe enough environment in which to operate.
Fenata is convinced that Namibia has what it takes to be the “Destination of Choice” post-Covid, as the type of tourism the country offers is focused on wide open spaces, freedom, isolation into the wild and all of this away from congested, over-populated environments.