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There is momentum in tourism but results remain elusive

Several important conferences hosted by local and regional agencies have given the local tourism industry some much-needed momentum. We will probably not see any direct benefits before the end of this year, but I do believe there are many new opportunities for us to revitalise this key sector.
Going by the latest Quarterly Economic Update, released last week by the Ministry of Finance, the hospitality side of tourism is not doing well. The sector Hotels & Restaurant declined by 17% during the second quarter and by a whopping 31.2% compared to a year ago. This does not bode well for an economic sector that has been hit very hard by the financial crisis of five years ago.
It is notoriously difficult to measure tourism revenues accurately. When a tourist enters Namibia, he or she becomes an ordinary consumer and does not reflect a traceable statistical trail like other revenue items. Other than car rental and lodgings, tourism revenues are hard to track and difficult to compile. But the hospitality figures from the finance ministry at least offer a glimpse of accommodation, and tourists have to sleep somewhere. So, it is reasonable to say that if Hotels & Restaurants declined by one third in one year, then a similar decline can be surmised in all other areas of tourist spending.
It is because of this visible decrease that I am so enamoured by the large conferences we have hosted. The Adventure Travel World Summit drew roughly 650 representatives from across the globe, representing a form of tourism which we have hardly exploited so far. And the Water Reuse conference in Windhoek, although not strictly a tourism event, drew another 400 delegates all leaving our shores as ambassadors to spread the gospel of Tourism Namibia in their respective countries.
In the region, both Durban and Cape Town hosted major tourism conferences which again, usually do not bring us immediate benefits but create platforms where Namibian promoters can participate to increase the exposure of our own products.
The authoritative International Air Transport Association (IATA) started the string of travel-focused conference in South Africa with their Annual General Meeting in Cape Town at the beginning of June. IATA describes southern Africa as a region with enormous promise yet with significant challenges. Africa is also among the fastest growing regions but still remain so insignificant as a contributor to domestic air travel that IATA does not bother to compile or release any specific African statistics. Africa is only mentioned briefly as a component of international travel.
The IATA AGM may have been a mere blimp on the screen for most local operators, but their decision to host their AGM for the first time on African soil, says something about their expectations for our continent. This is in general quite positive but in the meantime local tourism operators and accommodation establishments must survive and be profitable to grow. And this can only happen if the number of tourists to Namibia increase and dramatically so.
Tourism is identified in the fourth National Development Plan as a priority sector. This is a reflection of the sector’s importance from a development perspective, and it indicates the preferential treatment it receives from a policy perspective. But the fruits of all our efforts over many years, are still meagre.
I realise it is easier said than done, and it is perhaps stating the obvious to say we have to exploit the new opportunities, but I still believe tourism is one of the key economic sectors of the future. There is a glimmer of hope in the short term. Again quoting IATA figures, their latest monthly update (September) indicates global growth of more than 5% year on year. “Growth in air travel has been strong over recent months, supported by improvements in the demand environment” they said.
This is perhaps the most important point for us to consider. I argue that we must exploit the new opportunities in tourism but this will be futile if demand is lacking. From the official statistics, I see that demand has stabilised and is gradually improving. Since a very large part of our foreigners come by air, I assume a general improvement in international travel, will also eventually show up in our visitors statistics.
After aggressively promoting tourism for so many years, I have sympathy with despondent operators who point out all the positive aspects of Namibia, and then the boom still fails to materialise. I can only be philosophical reminding them that 23 and a bit years ago, tourism as an economic sector was as good as non-existent.

About The Author

Following reverse listing, public can now acquire shareholding in Paratus Namibia


20 February 2020, Windhoek, Namibia: Paratus Namibia Holdings (PNH) was founded as Nimbus Infrastructure Limited (“Nimbus”), Namibia’s first Capital Pool Company listed on the Namibian Stock Exchange (“NSX”).

Although targeting an initial capital raising of N$300 million, Nimbus nonetheless managed to secure funding to the value of N$98 million through its CPC listing. With a mandate to invest in ICT infrastructure in sub-Sahara Africa, it concluded management agreements with financial partner Cirrus and technology partner, Paratus Telecommunications (Pty) Ltd (“Paratus Namibia”).

Paratus Namibia Managing Director, Andrew Hall

Its first investment was placed in Paratus Namibia, a fully licensed communications operator in Namibia under regulation of the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN). Nimbus has since been able to increase its capital asset base to close to N$500 million over the past two years.

In order to streamline further investment and to avoid duplicating potential ICT projects in the market between Nimbus and Paratus Namibia, it was decided to consolidate the operations.

Publishing various circulars to shareholders, Nimbus took up a 100% shareholding stake in Paratus Namibia in 2019 and proceeded to apply to have its name changed to Paratus Namibia Holdings with a consolidated board structure to ensure streamlined operations between the capital holdings and the operational arm of the business.

This transaction was approved by the Competitions Commission as well as CRAN, following all the relevant regulatory approvals as well as the necessary requirements in terms of corporate governance structures.

Paratus Namibia has evolved as a fully comprehensive communications operator in Namibia and operates as the head office of the Paratus Group in Africa. Paratus has established a pan-African footprint with operations in six African countries, being: Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia.

The group has achieved many successes over the years of which more recently includes the building of the Trans-Kalahari Fibre (TKF) project, which connects from the West Africa Cable System (WACS) eastward through Namibia to Botswana and onward to Johannesburg. The TKF also extends northward through Zambia to connect to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, which made Paratus the first operator to connect the west and east coast of Africa under one Autonomous System Number (ASN).

This means that Paratus is now “exporting” internet capacity to landlocked countries such as Zambia, Botswana, the DRC with more countries to be targeted, and through its extensive African network, Paratus is well-positioned to expand the network even further into emerging ICT territories.

PNH as a fully-listed entity on the NSX, is therefore now the 100% shareholder of Paratus Namibia thereby becoming a public company. PNH is ready to invest in the future of the ICT environment in Namibia. The public is therefore invited and welcome to acquire shares in Paratus Namibia Holdings by speaking to a local stockbroker registered with the NSX. The future is bright, and the opportunities are endless.