Pandemic throttles hospitality sector, but there’s hope on the horizon
The results from the Hospitality Association of Namibia’s Accommodation Survey indicates the hospitality sector reached a mere 16.8% of total occupancy for 2020.
This is a tragedy when looking at the levels of 2019, which showed occupancy at local tourism establishments standing at 53%, a reflection of the impact the international travel ban imposed due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in mid-March 2020 had on the tourism sector.
The travel and tourism industry has faced periodic bans on business openings, closed borders, restrictions on operating hours, alcohol bans, generous spacing demands and other strict hygiene measures that have severely impacted the tourism industry.
With a benchmark figure of between 42-45% occupancy needed to break even in terms of operational costs to run a tourism business, the low 16% clearly shows that despite all good intentions.
Gitta Paetzold, CEO of the Hospitality Association, said the local tourism industry is in a very precarious state financially, and the continued limitations and restrictions on international and regional travel aimed at curbing the spread of the virus are virtually strangling the tourism sector.
But not all is lost, as Namibia has made great strides in its tourism revival initiative between September and November, when borders opened and international, regional and local tourists were allowed to enjoy the unique beauty of our country.
During the months of lockdown and closed borders between April 2020 and August 2020, the Namibian accommodation establishments recorded between 5% to 8% occupancy, mainly due to domestic travel possible since May 2020, and the quarantine accommodation imposed on returning residents.
Then the tourism revival initiative was launched in September with the first international flights coming in from Europe (Eurowings) and Africa (Ethiopian Airways and Airlink/SA), and the influx of travellers saw the occupancy rate for the 4th quarter rise to 18.5%, and as statistics show, a good 17% of the guests comprised of visitors from greater Europe, while almost 6% came from South Africa during the 4th quarter alone.
Namibians also used the opportunity to travel their own country, so for the first time ever, the annual occupancy reveals that Namibians constituted over half of the total occupancies recorded at establishments.
Paetzold said in order to allow for any form of rescue and recovery in tourism going forward, Namibians need to show resilience and commitment to a united, national effort to the tourism revival initiative launched by government in September.
“Namibia has what it takes to become the perfect escape from the infringements and confines of international lockdown measures, as this country offers wide open spaces, a sparse population and the tourism product in particular focusing on exclusive, isolated attractions and endless horizons,” Paetzold added.
To continue the work on the revival of the sector, the Hospitality Association of Namibia will hold its 2021 Congress in June under the theme ‘Unlocking New Horizons’.