Deputy Minister of Environment and Tourism (MET) Tommy Nambahu has acknowledged that although the tourism sector remains a vital cog in growing the economy it still needs to be liberalised to open more avenues for the previously disadvantaged.
Nambahu said there is no equal participation of Namibians in tourism adding that the sector is still riddled by racial and gender indifferences, yielding age old beliefs that tourism is an activity that is only being engaged by white people.
“I will not say that domestic tourism is being practiced as it should in Namibia, there is no dividends among people because most Namibians still believe that tourism is only being engaged in by white people. Tourism is for everyone, people should understand and participate in local tourism, I am currently in the regions to push the agenda of domestic tourism. We need to continue encouraging our people to enjoy the beauty of their country as much as we continue getting more visitors from the United States of America, England, Spain, Italy and also new markets like China,” he said.
Nambahu told The Villager that Namibia’s international coverage shows that government efforts to boost tourism are working, adding that government’s deliberate policy to enhance tourism is finally paying off. Tourism is one of the sectors identified under the national economic blueprint National Development Plan(NDP) 4 to steer the economy and create jobs.
“We need to keep consolidating the tourism policy and tap into untapped markets, I feel that in the future it is also important for the tourism sector to continue sensitising Namibians on the importance of tourism in their own country,” Nambahu said.
The Huffington Post ranked Namibia second out of five ‘best countries to visit in 2015’ where they also ranked the Etosha National Park 4th out of 35 other best National parks in the world.
In 2014, Namibia received 1, 477, 593 foreign visitors, from the previous year’s 1, 374, 602 representing an increase of 12%. Tourist topped the number of arrivals during the period under review showing that out of the total number of foreign visitors, about 1, 320, 062 were tourist, while 32 506 were returning residents and 15 542 came for unstated purposes.
Releasing the latest annual Tourist Statistical Report 2014, Minister of Environment and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta said that Namibia has positioned itself on the international market as a preferred tourism destination and host of international conferences.
“The period under review has been a remarkable year for the tourism sector and foreign arrival figures speak for themselves. Namibia needs to keep up the momentum for further development of tourism, to move away from seasonal destination into an all year destination,” Shifeta said.
The overall number of tourists that came to Namibia, through varied between different months it increased from June up to September and later decreased slightly. Most African tourists start visiting during the December period.
Africans visit Namibia mostly, with Angolans being the majority, followed by South Africans and Zambians, influencing the overall trend in November and December.
Although there were cases of the Ebola disease being recorded in Africa, international tourist arrivals in Namibia have increased drastically. Shifeta said that looking at the new increased figures in tourist arrivals, it shows that the disease has not affected the inflow of tourists in Namibia.
He said that shuttle services is an employment creation method Namibians can venture into. “Most tourist who visit Africa enter Namibia with shuttle vehicles as start their tours from neighbouring countries and as you can see most of shuttles transporting tourists are owned by other African countries. This are markets Namibians can tap into and create employment for themselves,” he said.
The 2014 statistics show that majority of tourists stayed for at least a week in Namibia, which is similar to 2013. Tourist coming from Africa stayed longer than tourists coming from Europe or North America. Country wise Angola, South Africa, Zambia and Germany had the tourist who stayed in Namibia.