Tourism is an incredibly important sector for Namibia. Our country is home to a range of unique natural attractions that have made us a global destination of choice over recent years. The variety of scenery and landscapes, the healthy and growing populations of wildlife, the community-based approach to conservation and Namibia’s many different cultures are at the core of a sector that has grown to provide employment for an estimated 100,000 people in a country with a total population of about 2.4 million and a surface area of 824,268 km2.
Namibia has all the ingredients for tourism to recover and reach its full potential again soon. But we need travellers from all over the world to have the confidence to start travelling again, visit Namibia and feel safe.
A quick glance at the beautiful content of this publication will convince any potential visitor that Namibia should be the first destination to visit when the new normal allows pandemic-weary people all over the world to board a plane again.
It was therefore no surprise that Namibia was the first stop when the Secretary General of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation paid his first official visit to Africa during the COVID pandemic. When Mr Zurab Pololikashvili arrived in November at a critical time for the tourism sector it sent a clear message to the world that Namibia had managed the pandemic well. As the United Nations agency promotes responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism, we continue to look for guidance and solutions going forward. Tourism has proved to be highly resilient to the global economic downturn faced in the aftermath of the previous financial crisis and Namibia has seen increasing numbers of tourist arrivals year on year since independence.
But the sector has been brought to the brink of collapse by the COVID-19 pandemic. The year 2020 has turned the previous positive trends completely upside-down. Occupancy rates at hotels and other establishments have dropped by an estimated 90%. Comparing the number of visitors to our top attractions, i.e. Etosha National Park and Sossusvlei, during the period March-August 2020 with the previous year, showed a decline of 83% and 92% respectively.
President Hage Geingob launched the International Tourism Revival Initiative in June 2020 and we have been implementing this initiative since 1 September with agreed protocols to ensure the safety and health of Namibians and tourists alike.
This initiative has laid a foundation for us to regrow and rebuild the sector in the context of the new normal and the ongoing pandemic.
We are making plans to guide the sector going forward and have developed a National Strategy on Sustainable Heritage Tourism Development and Employment Creation Opportunities at Community Level for the period 2020-2030. This will be launched soon and is envisaged to strengthen the contribution of our unique cultural and heritage resources to the tourism sector going forward. We are also in the process of developing a Tourism Spatial Development Master Plan for the sector.
However, the most important part of tourism recovery is to convince travellers that Namibia is a destination worth their time and money.
There are few places left on earth with so much space, where wild animals roam freely, protected by people who coexist with them on the same land and use the same resources.
Namibia’s track record is worth your attention and your visit.
We look forward to welcoming you soon.