Opportunities in tourism sector despite the escalating pandemic
By Frans Kwala
Founder of Riverside Lodge Katima Mulilo.
Namibia Wildlife Resorts together with the Namibia Tourism Board has been working closely with the Ministry of Tourism on revival strategies for the industry, in the process doing some amazing community work with a lasting impact on the local economy mainly through education and food security programmes.
A good example that Namibia could imitate is the ‘Year of Return’, Ghana’s 2019 initiative to attract foreign visitors, which proved to be a success.
That year alone Ghana experienced a 45% surge in visitors compared to 2018 and as stated by their Minister of Tourism, Barbara Oteng Gyasi, the set plan raked approximately US$1.9 billion into the economy. In line with this, from the outset of 2020, the country’s travel industry anticipated even more growth.
The negative impact has been significant, but the pandemic has also provided an opportunity for entrepreneurs to think creatively and find solutions to some of the obstacles that have arisen. A great example – ‘Encounter Ghana’, is creating an innovative technology solution for the tourism sector to improve the utilization of advanced technology in tourism.
The impact of the pandemic on the tourism industry cannot be overlooked. The UN World Tourism Organization has reported that international arrivals were down 74% worldwide through 2020 and that up to 100 million jobs were put at risk. Since the outbreak emerged, governments have been forced to splurge large amounts of funding into the health sector, leaving other strategic sectors to fall short in the budget of the country.
Funds allocated to the most lucrative sector that contributes the most to the GDP of Namibia (tourism and mining), have been cut and allocated to the Covid relief plan.
Another area of concern is the increased cost of travelling such as the implemented system that requires all incoming tourists to carry out a Covid-19 test at a fee ranging from N$750 to N$1,500. This has discouraged a few individuals and is a current concern.
Many lodges and guest houses accumulated debts (in taxes and levies) due to the lack of business activity. The bills skyrocketed and lack of income has resulted in many owners facing bankruptcy and the fear of having to dispose of the property. Surely, the first 6 months of the outbreak saw several owners itching to sell.
Organizations such as Namibia Wildlife Resorts and privately-owned resorts are essential for economic recovery. The business model is based on supporting the local economy by locals supporting local resorts to keep their doors open.
As new ways are being created to address new and old challenges in this dented industry, much remains hopeful and perhaps the silver lining for our own Namibians to finally appreciate the beauty that Namibia has to offer to its own people.