Despite a lack of travelling appetite amongst Namibians-a situation which worries government, Namibia’s tourism industry is still considered a beacon of hope despite the prevailing economic climate in the country. Currently over 70% of tourists are from abroad, official statistics indicates. Namibia’s 2014-2020’s industry growth targets as stipulated in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism’s Investment Strategy are three fold, to increase the tourist arrivals from 1.2 million to 2.5 million, to increase the tourist yield per arrival from N$ 4 558 to N$ 6 837 and to increase the tourist receipts from N$ 4.6 million to N$ 6 million. With the percentage change in terms of tourist arrivals in Namibia was measured at 5.1% in 2015, Simonis Storm in its Tourism Industry Report released recently underscored that the quantification of the economic value of the tourism industry and identification of areas for investment and policy attention have become more important than ever.
Simonis Storm believes that despite the macroeconomic headwinds that have resulted in a deterioration of Namibia’s fiscal and external trade position in 2015 and ultimately feeding into 2016, the tourism industry remains a beacon of hope for the Namibian economy. “We believe that the weaker rand would continue to support growth in the wholesale and retail trade sector as it relates to the tourism sector,” the report noted. It further noted that: “The expected operations of additional airlines (Qatar Airlines, KLM, and Ethiopian Airlines) in Namibia are likely to attract more tourists from Central Africa, Middle & Far East, and Europe. This would improve Namibia’s net travel receipts and therefore ease pressure on the current account, which we estimate to be at 13.0 % of GDP. Also, with this logic in mind, we believe that embracing an “open sky policy” would be necessary to optimally capitalize on export earnings from international travel services. This will also resonate with the Government’s ambition of positioning the country as a transport logistics hub for Southern Africa.” The stockbrokerage firm also pointed out that the revenue generated from the tourism levy is under-optimized due to alleged underreporting of accommodation occupancy rates.
“Therefore, we believe strengthening the efficacy of the levy administration holds significant potential to beef-up the revenue and therefore improve international marketing of Namibian tourism. Furthermore, it became evident that tourists in general prefer paying less for accommodation, and as such choose to stay at permanent tented camps or board with families. Given that observation, we believe that investment opportunities exist in developing camping structures,” states the report. It also highlighted that Namibia’s investment climate is attractive because Namibia tourism industry has less regulatory barriers compared to its neighbours South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Angola with respect to the four modes of services supply. Going forward, Simonis Storm stressed that it is imperative that the informal sectors such as cultural activities be integrated into the mainstream economy. “This would allow for the preservation of national heritage, create and sustain jobs, and thereby increase consumer spending to support growth,” stated the report.
Poor domestic tourism
Poor domestic tourism continues to persist despite public and private establishments crafting special payment packages for locals. In a recent address, environment and tourism deputy minister Tommy Nambahu was concerned with domestic tourism, especially when considering the fact that over 70% of tourists are from abroad. “Domestic tourism in Namibia is in a serious setback, as we have only international visitors making up the busy season, leaving a prolonged low season. Hence encouraging and providing accessibility should be part of our various strategies to draw more visitors to our destinations,” he said. Namibia records around 1,5million foreign arrivals of which 1,3million are tourists. With this in mind Minister Nambahu stated that “tourism is today identified by government as one of the pillars of economic growth and is one of the few industries that contribute directly to poverty alleviation and economic development especially in the rural areas.” He called on a more elaboration of the theme “Tourism for All – Promoting Universal Accessibility”, stating that “Accessible Tourism for all is about the creation of environments that can cater for the needs of all of us, whether we are travelling or staying at home. May that be due to a disability, families with small children, or the ageing population, tourism and its product offering must be accessible to us.”
“Namibia is globally recognized for having sound policies and is amongst some of the most progressive countries with regards to drafting and abiding by its laws. Our constitution makes provision for the right to live, and with those rights comes the freedom to be.” “Many of our tourism establishments especially in the rural areas until today are not disability friendly, thus we are reminded today that we need to make our establishments more accessible for all.” Namibia said tourism has replaced trophy hunting as the key source of income with more than 40 joint venture lodges in Namibian conservancies. “The two activities are strictly separated by zoning conservancies into different and land-use areas, including agriculture.” The Communal Conservancy Tourism Sector, according to the Nambahu, display Namibia as a destination that is “committed to finding a balance between conservation, community and development” further contributing to Namibia’s globally significant achievements. “Namibia is a global leader in the process of facilitating private sector tourism partnerships with communities who have established communal conservancies. However we need to do more. I call upon the private sector to invest more in our conservancies, and by so doing enlarge the pie of the product offering of destination Namibia. We need to make tourism accessible to all. It is not good that only 4% of all the total beds in Namibia are in the rural areas including conservancies of Namibia. This must change.
The Minister further called on members of the industry to pay more attention to issues related to service delivery in the various facilities nationwide. He related to the Namibian culture being one that naturally serves guests, but this had not been reflected in the current state of affairs in the industry. “I believe perhaps it is time that we put it in our policy framework that all Namibians must engender a culture of efficient service delivery across all sectors both public and private.” He said.