Tourism initiative records zero arrivals . . . as sector raises practicality concerns

Clifton Movirongo

Namibia has failed to record a single tourist arrival, a week after it opened its borders to tourist arrivals under the international tourism revival initiative.

Tourism Minister Pohamba Shifeta said the industry was banking on the resumption of international flights into the country, with some airlines expected to resume on Friday.

“Nothing has really happened in the first official week of the government’s tourism revival plan since the proclamation. However, about five airlines have confirmed that they are landing in Namibia within this month, with the first one scheduled for Friday, 11 September and more coming after that.” Shifeta told the Windhoek Observer.

In the face of zero arrivals, the Federation of Namibian Tourism Associations (FENATA) questioned the practicality of the initiative.

According to the requirements, entry to the country will only be allowed through Hosea Kutako International Airport and all travellers must present a negative PCR test result, not older than 72 hours before boarding the plane and to be allowed to enter Namibia. In addition, all travellers will be required to stay for seven days at their first tourist facility on their registered itinerary. There are additional among requirements including testing before they leave that first venue.

“It is the practical limitations that come along with it that raise some very real continuing concerns. As it stands now, the initiative is seen as a gesture only. It would need concerted efforts, clarity and a clear statement from Namibian leaders and all government to confirm that our country is willing and ready to receive international tourists,” FENATA made this point in its letter to the Tourism Revival Task Team.

“An open airport solely will not attract travellers to Namibia.”

Quizzed on the concerns, Shifeta said, “We are going to review the protocols this week and the TRTT is working tirelessly to amend some of the arrangements where necessary as the protocols are being closely delved into every second week.”

However, the CEO of the Hospitality Association of Namibia (HAN) revealed to the Windhoek Observer that the next days and weeks will have to be used to make a public declaration by government to the international tourism industry, including aviation, to disclose information about new arrivals from outside since the reopening of borders.

“We are happy to see that Ethiopian Air has confirmed its first flight to land on September 11, and the Lufthansa group/ Eurowings has its first arrival scheduled for September 19 and thereafter three times a week,” she said, adding that in the meantime, HAN is hard at work to finalize all the logistics with the government in terms of certification, health protocols and more.

“Namibia is willing to resume tourism having experienced domestic travel on small scale since May. We are confident that the safety protocols our sector has effectively applied for Namibians are equally apt for international guests. HAN is looking forward with careful optimism and forward is the way they need to go,” she said.

The international tourism revival initiative is a government plan aimed at providing a lifeline to the country’s tourism sector which is on the verge of collapse due to the closure of boarders to international travellers as part of measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The development comes after two failed attempts by government to open its borders to international tourist arrivals due to differences on how the initiative would be operationalized.

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