Editorial – The tourism sector must be identified

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That the tourism sector has been hit the hardest by travel restrictions, border closures and blockades to curb the spread of Covid-19 around the world is a well-known fact.

In February 2021, the Bank of Namibia said the industry had lost N $ 3.2 billion and that 70% of companies in the travel industry had recorded less than 10% of normal bookings.

Namibia recorded 192,026 foreign arrivals last year, of which 169,565 were recorded as tourists, down 89.4% from 2019, according to the annual National Arrivals Statistics report. tourists released by the government on Wednesday.

Only around 60,000 international tourists arrived between September 2020 and March 2021.

This week, the Minister of Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta, again pleaded with the sector to pivot towards the Namibian market.

The importance of tourism to the country cannot be overstated enough, generating income and employment for Namibians and bringing foreign currency to the country.

However, the sector has been in the hands of a wealthy few, mostly non-Namibians, for too long. The industry is riddled with anomalies which, if they were to occur in other industries, would be frowned upon.

Lodge prices have always been adapted only to the European middle class. Some of these settlements have remained largely unknown and beyond the reach of the wealthiest Namibians.

Even when the Namibian Wildlife Resort (NWR) offers massive discounts, the way the deal is structured still makes it unaffordable.

Foreign tourist guides have long dominated this space. Imagine a South African tour guide showing the attractions of Namibia to Chinese tourists, staying in predominantly German lodges and cooked by an Italian chef.

Thus, very little money remains in circulation in the country. Would it be tolerated in any other country or in any other sector? On top of that, the treatment Namibian workers receive in some of these lodges is terrible.

There is also an oversupply of lodges, coming from white-owned farms refusing to sell to the government’s land acquisition program and instead turning the farms into guest farms and lodges when agriculture in Namibia becomes too much. difficult for homeowners or that wealthy white heirs just want to have a firm weekend for their leisure time.

To exacerbate industry struggles, the Namibia Tourism Board (NTB), mandated to promote the country’s tourism “both internationally and locally”, has remained ineffective due to underfunding and questionable decision-making. They also largely ignored promotion to locals.

It also doesn’t help the industry that the historic attractions of the state-owned company, NWR, are mismanaged and basics like facility cleaning are overlooked.

It is high time not only to make it more affordable for Namibians, but also to fully empower the industry.

We cannot continue to settle for meager paid jobs at the bottom of the ladder in an industry that focuses on the beauty and splendor of Namibia and its people.

But when disaster strikes and the fountain of foreign tourists dries up, it is the very Namibian taxpayer that these institutions are fleeing that they turn to a bailout.

2021-08-13 Journalist

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