The local tourism sector has seen exponential growth since independence with the line ministry recording a historical high number of tourists into the country.
Speaking yesterday at a tourism and intellectual property workshop organised by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), tourism director, Dr. Sem Shikongo, said Namibia started off with 202 000 tourists and in 2016 reached a 1.6 million tourist mark.
Emphasising how the sector is important for the local tourism players, Shikongo also said for every 11 tourists, Namibia creates one job.
“It’s a strategic sector and it has promise for growth and development. The most important thing is that, tourism is among a few sectors where you can take somebody from the streets without any (qualification) paper, starting off as a cleaner and moving to be a manager. You can have a chef moving through and he can be one of the top-chefs. Depending on the passion, this can be very fast.,” he said.
He added, ‘We are the third contributing sector but in actual fact we know that we are experiencing this economic situation and tourism has been the only sector that showed growth in the last two to three years.”
He said the sector remains a catalyst for growth and nation building: “For us, tourism is everybody’s business. Everything that we do, somehow, as people, leads to tourism.”
However, the sector still is riddled with a plethora of challenges and Shikongo has pointed at seasonality as one of those.
“Tourists come from around May until around August. What we have been doing is that, we have been marketing the country saying that tourists best come in our winter. But actually, if you bring other elements, people do not have seasons. We must change the way we talk about the country, cultural festivals are not linked to seasons,” he said.
Shikongo also said the country needs to relook at its approach to customers both within the private and public sectors.
“It’s a challenge,” Shikongo said adding that there is still a visible skills shortage in the country.
He added, “We want to create growth and development. But what are the issues that prevents us from that? It’s access to finance, not lack of money, but access to finance.”
He has urged Namibians to change their mindsets towards the country’s heritage while at the same time citing that the language barrier still hampers the sector.