Tourist accommodation demand surges

Demand for leisure accommodation by tourists went up last year compared to previous years, in a development attributed by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) to spruce up hospitality requirements.
On average, the beds rate indices witnessed a 20.9% increase to 121 points while the rooms occupancy rate went up by 24.5% to 131 points.
Figures availed by the Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA) show that since March to December 2014, the performance of beds and rooms occupancy indices has remained above 100 points in comparison to the same period of 2013.
This indicates that the Namibian tourism accommodation industry experienced higher demand of leisure accommodations than in the past.
Minister of Environment and Tourism, Uahekua Herunga, suggested that the accommodation sector is largely run by the private sector where most foreign tourists prefer to put up.
“We observed a trend where tourists prefer to spend and obtain accommodation at private facilities as compared to government run ones, hence, we have made concerted efforts to alert them (private players) on the hospitality expectations,” he said.
He said that in the last two years, a key target market area for the ministry has been the Middle East and all private and public tourist accommodation facilities were encouraged to include ablution facilities used by Muslims and to construct structures that face the North East for their prayers.
The beds and rooms occupancy rate indices reflected slow performance in November 2014, stemming from the industry’s peak travel season returning to normal levels.  
Visitors in November and December are usually very low especially at the end of November and at the beginning of December but towards the end of December, mass arrivals of the holiday crowds begin to recover.
However, the indices show that in November 2014 the occupancy rates are higher than what was recorded in the same month of 2013, showing promising demand for leisure accommodation.
The room and bed occupancy indices and the arrivals and departures indices serve as a representation of the tourism sector, which is a priority sector under government blueprint NDP4.
Herunga said as part of government’s broader strategy towards enhancing tourism accommodation and stimulating more local tourists to travel to Namibia’s resort areas, the ministry is promoting the establishment of joint venture lodges in rural communities under government gazetted communal conservancies.
He said that the idea is for people to identify conservancies, and obtain signed legal agreements between investors, community leaders and the ministry.
“Ever since the inception of the Environmental Investment Fund where one can access a grant as long as they include an environmental component in the business proposal, slightly over N$1 million has been disbursed to beneficiaries under this project,” he said.
“Most loans require securities but we noted that previously disadvantaged Namibians do not have the required collateral or properties so rather we look at the 100% perfection of a business plan,” he said adding that Government can avail up to N$10 000 to assist one to set up a viable business plan so that it meets all requirements.
The Environmental Investment Fund aims to foster financial delivery mechanisms to drive forward the implementation of identified programmes under the tourism plan.
Turning to the Transfrontier Conservation park, which permits free movement between the KAZA states, Herunga said the responsible ministries will be meeting in the next two weeks to discuss how best to further develop the park.
“Although the park is now functional, a lot still needs to be done. The various countries have been co-operative and, Angola for instance, has assisted in demining various areas while Namibia has intensified conservation efforts,” he said.
The NSA further revealed that the index for both Regional and International arrivals and   departures continued to decline in December 2014 from the month of November 2014.
On average, the Regional and International arrivals and departure index levels for 2014 stood at 112 points and 115 points, which is a higher rating than the respective 109 points and 111 points reported in 2013.