Number of tourists visiting Namibia increasing

Martin Endjala

There is finally light at the end of the tunnel for the tourism sector after the devastating calamity which has rocked the sector during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Recent reports indicate that tourist inflows still look promising and set for further growth in 2023 with the number of foreign arrivals averaging 11 431 per month during the first two months of 2023, compared to a monthly average of 5 223 in the first two months of 2022.

According to Simonis and Storm’s Namibian Tourism Industry Report issued last week, foreign arrivals have increased by 107 percent in February 2023, with foreign arrivals said to account for an estimated 82 percent of the pre-pandemic levels in the last 12 months.

This implies that most of the recovery has been achieved, whereas regional arrivals have reached about 79 percent of pre-pandemic levels.

This is the best first quarter occupancy rate since the onset of the pandemic and so the local tourism sector is off to a good start in the new year.

The Bank of Namibia (BoN) indicated that continued economic improvement is supported by ongoing momentum in various sectors including tourism. With Namibia’s peak tourism season starting next month.

The Simonis and Storm economist, Theo Klein, expects improved growth in occupancy rates in the second quarter of 2023 and the third quarter, which is the peak season, to follow the pre-pandemic trend.

The occupancy rate in March 2023 across nationwide hospitality establishments stood at 40.7 percent, compared to 31.7 percent recorded in the prior month and 39.4 percent in March 2022. The occupancy rate averaged 36.5 percent in the first quarter of 2023, compared to an average of 46.1 percent in the previous quarter.

The report further showed that the central area of Namibia recorded the highest occupancy rate in March 2023, at 52.7 percent, followed by the southern area with 41.1 percent and the coastal area slotting in at 39.7 percent.

In contrast, the northern area had the lowest occupancy rate of 34.6 percent, almost 20 percentage points below the central area.

However, there has been a substantial increase in occupancy rates across all areas, except the coastal area, when compared to 12 months ago. Quarterly, the most significant contributor to the decline in occupancy rate was the Northern area which recorded a 32.4 percent decrease, this decline can be attributed to the high base provided by the festive season.

Meanwhile, in March 2023, there was a substantial increase of 32 percent year on year in the number of rooms sold, from 16 820 to 22 286 rooms. However, despite this growth, the numbers are still below pre-pandemic levels.

Similarly, the number of beds sold has risen by 40 percent, with 39 524 beds sold in March 2023 compared to 28 167 beds sold in March 2022.

Furthermore, Leisure tourism continues to be the primary driver of tourism, accounting for 91.9 percent of visitors in March 2023, while business travellers accounted for 6.3 percent and conference attendees accounted for 1.8 percent.

The majority of visitors during March came from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland (39 percent), followed by locals (27 percent) and South Africans at nine percent.

Klein was quick to note that in the budget statement in March 2023, where the Minister of Environment Tourism and Forestry announced six plans that will be executed with the Ministry’s N$595 million allocation from the National Budget.

Said that these government-led initiatives should complement private-sector projects and strategies to market Namibia as a safe destination with untouched natural environments.

In addition, the Environment Ministry also announced that they will be conducting research to publish their 6th edition Satellite Accounts report which will detail the direct and indirect contribution of the local tourism sector to the Namibian economy.

“This will be a welcome initiative given that the 5th edition was launched in 2015”, Klein said.

These plans include Tourism Growth Development and Gaming Regulations (N$23.6 million), and Protection and Management of Key Species and Natural Habitats (N$29.0 million).

Infrastructure and Development, Maintenance, Monitoring and Evaluation (N$61.7 million), Policy Supervision and Support Services (N$102.0 million), Environment and Natural Resources Protection (N$154.8 million) and Wildlife and Protected Area Management (N$224.4 million) are also included.

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