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Omicron variant to stifle positive tourism momentum

Omicron variant to stifle positive tourism momentum

Travel bans imposed on Namibia due to the new COVID-19 variant Omicron is likely to be a major blow to the local tourism industry, which had been gearing up for a bustling holiday season.

The United Kingdom; European Union, and the United States, including several African countries have already placed Namibia on its travel ‘red’ lists. The variant was first discovered in South Africa.

Research analyst at PSG Namibia, Shelly Louw said while the presence of Omicron has not been confirmed in Namibia yet, the country’s close ties with South Africa, where the variant was identified, makes it a target for travel bans.

Louw raised concern over the impact the travel bans will have on the Namibian tourism sector, which has been on a positive upward trend. According to the Hospitality Association of Namibia’s latest bed occupancy report, in October, Namibia’s tourism industry recorded its best month since the start of the pandemic although tourism figures were still trending well below pre-pandemic levels.

The national average bed occupancy was just shy of 34% in October, up from barely less than 5% during the worst of the pandemic lockdowns in the second quarter of 2020, but far below the pre-pandemic level of nearly 55%. In October 2021 the total number of bed nights sold more than doubled to 44 617 versus October 2020 but was slightly more than a third compared with the same month in 2019.

There were strong annual increases in bed nights sold to tourists from German-speaking Europe (Austria, and Switzerland), South Africa, France, and the Benelux (the Netherlands, and Luxembourg) countries in October.

“Namibia’s low level of Covid 19 vaccinations, and the fact that this new variant could possibly be ineffective against existing vaccines due to its many mutations, spells danger for the local tourism industry, with tighter restrictions on the horizon,” Louw said.

President Dr Hage Geingob on Monday, 29 November condemned the travel restrictions imposed by several countries on South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

“I urge the developed world to consciously meditate on the wisdom of unilateral decisions that result in targeted, ambiguous regional travel bans, which are not based on scientific rigour and evidence. These bans have many undesired impacts, including stalling much needed economic recovery in the Global South, stoking tensions and sowing seeds of division between countries and citizens,” Geingob said.


About The Author

Donald Matthys

Donald Matthys has been part of the media fraternity since 2015. He has been working at the Namibia Economist for the past three years mainly covering business, tourism and agriculture. Donald occasionally refers to himself as a theatre maker and has staged two theatre plays so far. Follow him on twitter at @zuleitmatthys