Tourist arrivals picking up

By Rosalia David

TOURIST arrivals through Hosea Kutako International Airport have increase from a mere 294 in September 2020 when the borders reopened to over 10 000 by end of March 2021.
This was revealed by Deputy Minister of Environment, Forestry and Tourism Heather Sibungo at the ‘TASA’ Roadblock mobile testing station launch.
Although the figure of international tourists has increased it is not comparable to the period before Covid-19.
“However, given the fear for travel worldwide still, this is an achievement for Namibia as the figure shows continued increase in arrivals. As we are all aware tourism is one of the hardest-hit sectors,” she said.
She added that with Namibia, having recorded a decline of 87 percent in international tourist arrivals in 2020, it is a major shock that translated into massive loss of over 1 000 jobs, with some establishments having closed completely, while others have not opened and some are gradually opening.
Sibungo said, for government the decline has caused a sharp decrease in foreign exchange and tax revenues which curbs public spending capacity and ability to deploy the measures necessary to support livelihoods through the crisis.
“Tourism is a socio-economic pillar for Namibia and therefore collective effort is necessary for us to find solutions and map the way forward to safeguard the future of tourism amidst and post covid-19,” said Sibungo.
Despite the decline in international arrivals during the pandemic, Sibungo said through the Tourism Revival Initiative they achieved resumption of safe, cross-border travel, managed to promote safe tourism services at all points of tourist contact and restoring confidence in Namibia as a safe destination amidst Covid-19.
“The Tourism Revival Initiative has enabled the sector to fully restart business. It has injected liquidity into the sector, protecting further jobs losses and creating hope for survival and livelihood. We have also seen reemployment which is a positive sign. We are among the countries with conducive and responsive travel protocols,” she added.
She however pointed out that the government will continuously adjust the protocols based on developments locally and globally in the interest of both Namibians and visitors.
Sibungo further highlighted that the government as part of the Tourism Revival Initiative efforts to revive the sector, continues to promote and boost traveller’s confidence in Namibia as a destination.
In addition, Namibia has also offered to host the United Nation World Tourism Organisation Regional Conference on Strengthening Brand Africa for the Swift Recovery of the Tourism Sector from 14-16 June 2021.
According to the minister, this will bring over 50 to 100 international delegates from all over the world to Namibia.
“This will provide yet more injection into the sector and present us yet with another opportunity to promote our self as both safe and United Nation World Tourism Organisation compliant tourism destination. This is part of our drive for diversification and efforts to grow Namibia as a safe meetings, conference and events destination,” she stated.
She added that the ministry has improved the capacity in pertinent areas such as laboratory testing of Covid-19 for purposes of travelling.
“Rapid testing is now available and roll-out of vaccination is now throughout the country. The Tourism Taskforce continues to engage strategic stakeholders for relevant interventions as and I’m delighted to have been given the opportunity to serve in this exciting and dynamic sector.”