By Maria Hamutenya

THE COVID-19 pandemic devasted Namibia’s tourism sector to an extent that the Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) only generated N$3 million in levies from October 2020 to March 2021.

NTB chief executive officer Digu //Naobeb said this is a massive drop compared to N$17 million the board between October 2019 and March 2020, before the onset of the pandemic.

“During that period, our revenue was N$17 million, and compared to the period from October 2020 to March 2021 we only made N$3 million. We are short by N$14 million,” he said.

//Naobeb said the situation has been compounded by the fact that airlines cancelled flights because of lockdown protocols in Namibia and in Europe.

“A number of airlines stopped flights to Namibia and this had a negative impact on the tourism sector as it prevented tourists from travelling to Namibia. If we have no flights from the source market, then we would not have tourists coming, and not revenue to talk about,” said //Naobeb

“The source market on which Namibia depends is Europe, which experienced the second wave of the virus, and this had a direct impact on the arrival figures in Namibia,” said //Naobeb.

Hospitality Association of Namibia (HAN) chief executive officer Gitta Paetzold said most of the visitors to tourism establishments this year were Namibians who made up 71 percent of guests.

This is attributed to special rates and discounts they were offered as incentives to promote local tourism. Last year Namibians constituted 32 percent of visitors to tourism establishments.

Paetzold added that European visitors to Namibia in February this year, made up only 17 percent of arrivals compared to 48 percent during the same period last year.

Namibia only recorded a mere 6 percent visitors from other African countries in February 2021, compared to 11 percent during the same period last year.

“Despite the opening of land borders to neighbouring countries to allow regional travel, some of our tourism operators are still facing obstructions, due to other COVID-19 protocols,” said Paetzold.

She added that for the tourism revival initiative to succeed and Namibia’s tourism industry to recover, a uniform approach to travel and safety protocols is needed.

“The tourism sector would like to appeal to decision makers and stakeholders to engage their regional and global counterparts to work towards unified travel parameters going forward,” Paetzold added.

Ministry of Environment and Tourism spokesperson, Romeo Muyunda said: “Considering the fact that there are restrictions in movement all over the world, as a country we were looking at measures that will ensure that tourist come to Namibia in a safe manner amid the restrictions.”

He added that the revival initiative had also been negatively impacted by the second wave of the pandemic because countries were now forced to introduce stricter measures on tourist travel.

“The impact was basically a loss of income for the sector. We had considerable job losses and retrenchments because some establishments were no longer sustainable,” he said.