The special rates offered during public holidays have aided in boosting the number of domestic tourists in the country.
Apart from the special rates, there are also membership cards available for domestic tourists at certain hotels or lodges, which cardholders can use to receive reduced rates.
“Domestic tourism is at its peaks mostly during the month of May because there are a lot of public holidays, and there are a substantial number of family packages and activities on offer from the tourism industry at reduced rates,” the Minister of Environment and Tourism (MET) Pohamba Shifeta said.
Speaking to The Villager newspaper this week, Shifeta explained that a lot of people use public holidays to travel, and the tourism industry uses this to their advantage by giving holidaymakers affordable destinations.
Johanna Monde is the Marketing Executive at the Namibia Tourism Board (NTB), and said bed occupancy had gone up to 39% last year and should be in the 40% region this year, a positive statistics all owing to their domestic tourism campaign started in 2009. “The idea is to lure the Namibian people by using public holidays, and we do this by sensitizing them about various places and the packages offered,” Monde noted.
She explained that their prerogative was to push the domestic market to explore their own country, and they do that by engaging industry, collecting information and distributing such to their target market.
As part of their campaign to not only boost domestic tourism but the tourism sector as a whole in the country, the ministry launched three new self-drive routes last year. “Last June, we launched three self-drive routes to encourage people to follow the road and explore some of the remote tourist destinations. We have also been using this as an opportunity to encourage the locals to start various initiatives along the roads which can benefit them financially, like lodges,” the Minister explained.
Tourists - both domestic and international - only visit the most popular landmarks and easily- accessible areas in Namibia. However, with the new routes, they get to see some of the most remote areas in the country.
The development of the routes was funded by the Millennium Challenge Account Namibia (MCA-N) Tourism Project, in support of the NTB. The routes are named Omulunga Palm Route, Arid Eden Route and Four Rivers’ Route.
The Omulunga Palm Route mostly covers the northern parts of Namibia, where tourists are able to see traditional and modern open markets and local crafters as well as discover the Ruacana Falls, amongst others.
The second route, the Arid Eden Route, stretches from Swakopmund to the Angolan border in the north, and includes the previously-restricted western area of the Etosha National Park.
The third route is the Four Rivers’ Route named after the rivers it covers, namely the Zambezi, Okavango, Kwando and Chobe rivers.
The Minister also pointed out that the tourism sector has been using Namibia’s cultural heritage to rake in scores of tourists. Shifeta said there are various projects, such as the living cultural museums, which attract tourists, both domestic and international.
The Ministry, in collaboration with the NTB, has helped with getting some of these projects off the ground. Living cultural museums are popular in that tourists can witness how people live in their traditional settings, engage with them and also help preserve their culture.
There are various living cultural museums in Namibia, such as the Mbunza Living Museum, the Mafwe Living Museum and the Damara Living Museum, to name but a few. These living museums also aid in educating school children about the various cultures in Namibia, and how people live.
The public holiday rates, membership cards, self-drive routes and cultural heritage sites are aimed at attracting domestic tourists as much as they are aimed at attracting international tourist.
As such, the minister urged domestic tourists to make use of these opportunities and explore their own country.