The Deputy Minister of Environment and Tourism (MET), Tommy Nambahu has expressed concern on the slow growth of domestic tourism, encouraging town councils and regional councils to come up with new strategies to improve their towns and regions to increase domestic tourism.
Tourism, which is regarded as one of Namibia’s key economic sectors that can diversify the economy and create employment, has slowed down partly due to fewer local people travelling across the country visiting tourism sites and establishments.
With the aim of pushing the sector to being the number one contributor to economy and reducing poverty, Nambahu tells Prime Focus Magazine that, “we as leaders should know our country well to be able to analyse and come up with creative ideas of attracting more people to different parts of Namibia, locally or internationally.”
Nambahu, who says that government has been visiting different countries to see how they could improve the country’s tourist destinations and coming up with more game parks, states that, “parastatals should market their properties well to create awareness across the country because sometimes people are not aware of the different amazing activities that the country could offer when travelling across the country.”
With the aim of growing the tourism sector, parastatals and private companies like the Namibian Wildlife Resort (NWR) and Gondwana Namibia has taken initiatives to market their resorts and improve infrastructure to increase the influx of foreign tourists and local tourist in the country.
Besides from encouraging town leaders to create new strategies to improve their towns, Nambahu also encourages Namibian people to prioritise travelling across the country and take it as a necessity rather than preferring to spent money on alcohol.
“People should change the notion of black people being known for only consuming alcohol but rather saving up money and going for a vacation,” Nambahu says.
Currently, the sector has shown a slight improvement on the influx of foreign tourists, however domestic tourism in the country continues to slow down.
According to Nambahu destinations in Zambezi were the most popular places for day visitors with almost 41% living in the north, followed by destinations in Otjozondjupa over 27%, while Hardap received only 18% and Windhoek 12%.
Nambahu, who believes in the notion of reading a lot of books and traveling thousands of miles in order to be smart or be informed says that, most people don’t know the difference between a hyena and a wild dog due to lack of interest in touring.
“Many young people don’t know how the fish river canyon looks like, how do we teach our kids if we don’t travel or boast about Namibian recourses that we haven’t seen and how does a cab driver or a leader educate and show a tourist around if he doesn’t know where the museum is or never visited the places that have made history like the Ongulumbashe,” he stresses.
He further explains that, According to the Namibia Domestic Expenditure Survey 2015, 24.5% of Namibians do not travel because of their busy schedule at work or school, while 23.0% of Namibians do not take day trip due to financial reasons.
Although government has been pushing for domestic tourism for leisure activities, many people continue to only travel due to reasons such as weddings and funerals which is currently the highest at 96.6% of people who only travelled for funerals and weddings.
Nambahu remains adamant that Namibia has the potential to transform the tourism sector to the major contributor of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) saying that, “there are many places that are affordable and cater for the low income group and therefore travelling should not be considered as ‘rich men’ game.”
He further reveals that, “I recently went to Botswana and there was a lot of people from other countries and few of them said that, Namibia has a lot of natural resources that can create a magnet to attract more people to the country and we should make use of it, therefore we have learned a lot from this foreign countries because to them tourism is the main contributor to the country’s economy.”
Although the tourism sector is considered as one of the huge contributor to employment creation, the state has recently lost a lot of money and retrenching up to 42 workers due to the close down of the Zambezi Waterfront Tourism Park (ZWTP) recently.
“The only way business can move forward is through the support of the Namibian people and therefore I want to encourage people to believe in the country’s natural resources and explore them as well as invest in the tourism sector to avoid businesses from closing down,” he says.
The report further shows that then average spend per person on a day to day trip in Namibia was N$993 while for business/conference visitors spent the most, averaging of N$1,598 per day followed by shopping which is N$1,229 and leisure/holiday N$1,042..