Shifeta launches tourism vaccination drive

• By Confidente Reporter

THE Minister of Environment, Forestry and Tourism Pohamba Shifeta has launched the tourism sector drive and sectoral update to foster awareness among employees and tourism businesses about the importance of Covid-19 vaccination.

Shifeta said the initiative was to achieve herd immunity among the targeted population and the positive role it may create in stimulating tourism and travel demand to the country.

“Tourism has been hit the hardest by the Covid-19 outbreak since 2020. The contribution of tourism to the national GDP, poverty alleviation, employment creation and rural development agenda has been threatened. It is therefore our considered duty to encourage all Namibians in particular, the people employed in the sector that vaccination is our most effective weapon in our fight against this pandemic, as the old adage remains true, that prevention is better than cure,” he said.

The minister also said his ministry is aligned with the World Health Organisation (WHO) on the importance of engaging in safer travel protocols rather than stopping travel altogether, because of the many people and livelihoods that are depended on the tourism economy of the country, not only directly, but also indirectly with those working in the subsequent industries that depend on the entire value chain, such as food production, services and manufacturing.

“It is my understanding that commencing the travel and tourism sector, post Covid-19, relies on the success of the Covid-19’s robust public health measures, the sectoral health protocols implemented and above all the percentage coverage of the vaccinated target population,” he added.

Shifeta further explained that the campaign for 2022 also aimed at increasing the level of understanding and participation of employees and businesses in the sector to voluntarily participate in the vaccination against Covid-19 in order to reduce the inherent health risks posed by hosting and engaging with guests from various places and to reduce the risk of falling sick and hospitalisation.

“I request all major institutions to drive company initiatives and engage employees positively to increase vaccination coverage in the sector,” he added.

Highlighting some of the activities the ministry was busy with to support the sector’s recovery process, Shifeta said although the sector received few arrivals and declining activities in 2020, a positive trend in international tourist arrivals was observed in 2021.

He said the ministry has made significant progress with the development of the National Tourism Recovery Plan.

The three-year plan sets out a national framework of a strategic approach to the recovery process with required policy intervention, strategic programmes and activities aimed at rebooting the sector, post Covid-19.

According to Shifeta, countrywide consultations were convened to share and receive input from industry stakeholders.

“Remaining is Khomas and Otjozondjupa regions, which dates will be announced soon. In this sense, the ministry is calling upon the industry stakeholders to read, attend and provide their expert input into the document to ensure that all necessary and appropriate interventions aimed to stimulate the sectoral demand are incorporated before its endorsement by the minister and subsequent approval by the Cabinet,” he said.

Tourism regional forums were also established in two regions, namely Hardap and Zambezi, to bring tourism services closer to communities. The forums are aimed at driving tourism growth and development at community level so as to spread the benefits of tourism across the country, while enhancing cooperation amongst stakeholders, and facilitating networks within the tourism fraternity at the regional level, Shifeta detailed.

“This effort will be continued in all other regions. I call on the regional and local governments to take lead of tourism developments in the respective regions and support the effort of the ministry in establishing the regional tourism forums,” he said.

Two new cross border routes in the KAZA TFCA were submitted and approved by the KAZA secretariat.

Shifeta further highlighted that with the new products, the ministry is able to increase guest experience and value to benefit its discerning visitors.

“It is now up to the tourism operators / companies to take lead to commercialise and market it to destination managers,” he said.