Tourism sector drives sluggish economy

Tujoromajo Kasuto

The tourism sector is the light in a dark tunnel for Namibian economy, with new data indicating that the recovery from the lockdown-induced depression is strengthening and may not necessarily lose momentum over the upcoming winter season, thanks to reduced risks from border closures.

According to the Hospitality Association of Namibia, Chief Executive Officer Gitta Paetzold, the industry is convinced that the current tourist recovery trend will continue, since there is considerable interest in and demand for Namibia from the worldwide travel trade.

Simonis Storm Research Firm Economist, Theo Klein in last month’s Hospitality report notes that the upcoming winter season is expected to experience another above average increase in Covid-19 infections, as it has over the last two years.However, he doubts borders will be closed after the government eased restrictions to allow fully vaccinated foreign nationals to visit Namibia without a negative PCR test.

Similarly, following a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, HAN will host its Tourist Trade

Forum on June 2 and 3, 2022, providing a platform for tourism service providers and product owners to network in order to develop tour packages and design Namibian travel products in response to growing demand in international markets.

Meanwhile, Klein notes that rental companies continue to struggle in restocking their vehicle fleet to meet rising demand for self-drive services by foreign nationals.

However, positive signs of an increase in bookings should bode well for local hospitality establishments.

In April 2022, the central area had the highest occupancy rate (41.5 percent), followed by the coastal area (40.5 percent), the southern area (36.7 percent), and the northern area (31.4 percent).

According to the research firm, 93.3 percent of visitors to Namibia come for leisure, 3.7 percent for business, and 2.9 percent for conferences.

Interestingly, the Northern and Southern area experienced the largest monthly increase in occupancy rates between April 2022 and March 2022, attracting more domestic and foreign tourists than the central and coastal areas.

According to the Hospitality Association of Namibia, the national occupancy rate in April 2022 was 36.5 percent, up from 28.6 percent the previous month and 27.7 percent in April 2021. This is the greatest rate of national occupancy since the pandemic.

Year to date, the national occupancy rate averages 26.5 percent, compared to 21.9 percent in 2021, indicating an increase in bookings made with national hospitality facilities.

Klein states that the proportion of Namibian visitors at local establishments continues to decline, with 37.7 percent of visitors being Namibians in April 2022, compared to 43.7 percent during the previous month).

“We see this as a positive development because foreign nationals often spend more money at establishments than locals,’’ he explains.

Thus, during April 2022, the majority of visitors came from Germany, Switzerland, and Austria (30.3 percent), South Africa (8.5 percent), France (5.7 percent), Benelux (5.28 percent), and the United Kingdom and Ireland (2.2 percent).

Greater Europe (Baltics, Scandinavia, and the United Kingdom) accounted for 47 percent of all visitors, which is comparable to pre-pandemic levels of around 50 percent.

The research firm suggests this is indicative of Namibia’s main markets returning to normal.

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