The Hospitality Association of Namibia (HAN) is convinced that the successful and effective roll-out of Covid-19 national and global vaccination plans may be a key element to ensure the normalisation of tourism flow across the world.
As the world is facing an unprecedented global health, social and economic emergency with the Covid-19 pandemic, travel, and tourism is among the most affected sectors with aeroplanes on the ground, hotels closed and travel restrictions put in place in virtually all countries around the world.
HAN chief executive officer Gitta Paetzold said several airlines and tourism entities have already indicated that vaccination passes may in future be required for travel and service provision.
“The travel and tourism sector is thus increasingly dependent on the vaccination programme and on behalf of HAN, we would like to wish the Namibian government and its people all the success in rolling out the Namibian Covid-19 vaccination plan, with several key tourism stakeholders ready to engage and contribute to the success of this endeavour,” she indicated.
Namibia’s Covid-19 vaccination rollout plan phase one is expected to take place from today to 16 April in the selected regions of Khomas and Erongo.
The two regions have, at different times, been classified as epicentres of the Covid-19 pandemic in Namibia.
Namibia received its first batch of Covid-19 Sinopharm vaccine doses donated by the Chinese government on Tuesday.
The 100 000 vaccine doses arrived on an Air Zimbabwe aircraft at the Hosea Kutako International Airport.
Paetzold indicated that for the tourism revival initiative to succeed and Namibia’s tourism industry to recover, a uniform approach to travel and safety protocols is urgently needed.
Therefore, the tourism sector appealed to decision-makers and stakeholders to engage with their regional and global counterparts to work towards unified, global travel parameters going forward.
In terms of tourism accommodation performance in Namibia in February, the hospitality sector managed to record an average of 20% occupancy. This, she said, is however only half of the performance of February last year.
The majority of guests at establishments this year were Namibians (71%), who visited the establishments at very special rates and prices while last year, the number of Namibians constituted some 32%.
Visitors from all of Europe in February this year made up for some 17% only, while during the same month last year, the accommodation establishments enjoyed almost 48% of European visitors.
“It is clear that there remains a notable hesitancy to travel, given the varying and ever-changing travel restrictions and regulations across the globe,” she observed.
Even inter-Africa travel seems hampered by the insecurity of travel regulations and the lack of harmonised safety and border protocols. February 2021 reflect a mere 6% of visitors to Namibia from other African countries, while last year, over 11% of Africans enjoyed stays at Namibian accommodation establishments during the same month.
HAN reacted despite official announcements and good intent to open land borders to neighbouring countries to allow for regional travel. Some tourism operators are still suffering obstructions due to border posts effectively closed, especially in the key tourism region of Kavango–Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (Kaza).
Paetzold said there is an urgent need to raise such issues at a bilateral level with authorities in neighbouring states.
She quoted United Nations World Tourism Organisation Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili as saying travel restrictions have been widely used to restrict the spread of the virus.
“Now, as we work to restart tourism, we must recognise that restrictions are just one part of the solution. Their use must be based on the latest data and analysis and consistently reviewed to allow for the safe and responsible restart of a sector upon which many millions of businesses and jobs depend,” said Pololikashvili.