By: Hertha Ekandjo
Environment ministry deputy minister Heather Sibungo said the government recognises the tourism sector as an important economic sector and a critical tool for sustainable development, as highlighted in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Sibungo said the tourism sector had been identified as one of the four pillars driving economic diversification and ensuring Namibia’s long-term sustainability.
Sibungo said this during Tuesday’s commemoration of 2022 World Tourism Day in Omuthiya.
According to her, the inclusion of tourism in the SDGs indicates the understanding and vision of decision-makers that tourism must be placed at the forefront of development plans to achieve sustainable and economic growth.
Moreover, the deputy minister noted that tourism was one of the backbones of Namibia’s success story.
Sibungo added that Namibia had the necessary framework conditions for the tourism sector to continue growing exponentially. It contributed to local economic development, employment creation, community empowerment and poverty alleviation.
“These elements are key development priorities for the Namibian government. The tourism sector provides various entry points for women’s employment and opportunities for self-employment in small and medium-sized income-generating activities,” said the deputy minister.
Sibungo further said tourism services within the country provided opportunities for many economic activities at local and regional levels, which she said was a distinctive trademark of the tourism sector, well known for its multiplier effects.
The ministry said the World Tourism Day celebrations this year came when the tourism sector was still recovering from the social and economic impact of Covid-19.
Sibungo emphasised that the decline in international tourist arrivals recorded in the previous two years, 2020 and 2021, respectively, was a ‘major’ shock for developed economies.
She further said Namibia continued to experience a growing trend in tourist arrivals from late 2021 to the second quarter of 2022.
“This is a positive outlook, and we should continue to make Namibia an attractive destination through value addition by introducing new tourism services and products, especially heritage tourism and gastronomy,” she expressed.
Furthermore, the ministry stated that many livelihoods were in jeopardy, and it was time to rethink, transform, and safely restart tourism.
The deputy minister highlighted that with the proper safeguards in place, the tourism sector could provide decent jobs and help build resilient, sustainable, gender-equal, inclusive economies and societies that work for everyone.
“The restart of tourism will help kickstart the recovery and growth. The benefits must be enjoyed widely and fairly. As a government with the mandate to promote and grow tourism, we have to create a conducive environment”.
She said that the ministry had developed a recovery plan to reboot the sector over the next three years to foster the sector’s growth and address constraints associated with the Covid-19 outbreak.
According to Sibungo, the crisis has inspired many and catalysed creativity. To an extent, the pandemic accelerated the transformation of work, bringing challenges and enormous opportunities to ensure even more people benefit from tourism’s restart process.
“The potential of tourism is enormous, and we have a shared responsibility to make sure it is fully realised. Namibia is a global leader in facilitating public-private sector tourism partnerships with communities who have established successful communal conservancies enterprises,” said Sibungo.
The ministry called on the private sector to invest more in the country’s conservancies and community-based tourism enterprises and develop and promote cultural and heritage tourism by including these people-centred services and products in their travel itineraries.
“Create new innovative products to increase value for money and guest experiences and enlarge the national product offering of the destination Namibia”.
World Tourism Day 2022 is commemorated under the theme “rethink tourism.”