Tourism and hospitality stakeholders have expressed their readiness to welcome international arrivals once Cabinet pronounces itself of the final modalities, including the quarantine period of such visitors.
However, the stakeholders cautioned against the 14-day quarantine suggestion currently on the table, saying it was not friendly to the industry.
In an attempt to rejuvenate the economy and trade in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, President Hage Geingob last month announced plans to open international travel during the newly introduced stage five phase of fighting the coronavirus.
The government in collaboration with the tourism and hospitality sector will conduct a targeted international tourism revival initiative expected to start today until 15 August.
This stage is aimed to address exclusively the opening of points of entry and the resumption of air travel.
This initiative will look to accommodate a limited number of tourists, who will be determined in consultation with the private sector, from a carefully selected low-risk market that has the potential to contribute towards the tourism sector that employs over 100 000 Namibians.
Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) CEO Digu //Naobeb said the tourism industry is ready to welcome tourists to the country as it has been preparing itself since May.
“We also caution against the 14-day quarantine proposal currently on the table.
As was deliberated, as industry input with the government officials, there are other options and models which can be explored to suit Namibia’s uniqueness of vast open spaces and sparse population distribution that in itself lends it best to social distancing and can be considered as an alternative,” //Noabeb reacted.
Tourism ministry spokesperson Romeo Muyunda yesterday said they have consulted with the private sector on modalities before opening the borders to international tourists.
“The recommendations we received from those consultations we have forwarded them to Cabinet to make a final decision in terms of days of quarantine among other things. That pronouncement can only be made after Cabinet approve or disapprove them,” Muyunda said.
NTB in consultation with the private sector developed the toolkit that spells out guidelines that various tourism businesses ranging from accommodation, tour operators, air charters, car rentals, must follow to ensure safety and hygiene, as well as the wellbeing of employees and visitors alike, are implemented.
“The industry has been dry running these guidelines, as currently, domestic travel is permitted, in practical terms. Equally, NAC has been tirelessly working on the Hosea Kutako International Airport readiness as this shall be the main gateway,” //Noabeb noted.
He said the only limitation they face is the commercial readiness of various airlines, including Air Namibia, to fly the direct route, as proposed for now, between Frankfurt and Windhoek.
Furthermore, he believes the government is at liberty to consider in the mix of everything the balancing act of the health of the citizens and the gradual opening of the economy and all other pertinent bilateral issues to apply the comprehensive decision.
“We are ready to support the outcome, but would caution that we should also not lose sight of likely further job losses and shutting of business as such shall have long-term detrimental impact. That is what we are all hoping for. Indeed, some travellers have shown interest to travel to Namibia, but the final country’s position will be the ultimate game broker,” //Noabeb maintained.
Hospitality Association of Namibia (HAN) CEO Gitta Paetzold said the tourism sector had active and constructive engagements with the government.
“We hope and trust that we were able to state the case for tourism, and hope that our risk mitigation measures in lieu of quarantine, are being considered. Now all that remains for us is to wait. We are all anxiously awaiting Cabinet decision on this.
She added advisors of the Covid economic cluster have met on numerous occasions, and the tourism private sector has submitted practical modalities and risk mitigation efforts.
“All input have been internalised for government’s decision and weighed off against priorities of health,” she noted.
As of 30 June, all Namibians and non-Namibians entering the country were required to submit a Covid-19 PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test on arrival and mandatory, government-supervised quarantine, at own cost.
All non-Namibians must present a negative Covid-19 PCR test result, valid for 72 hours before entering Namibia.