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Youth empowerment in tourism is key – Shifeta

Youth empowerment in tourism is key – Shifeta

Staff Reporter

THE Minister of Environment, Forestry and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta, said that youth empowerment in tourism is vital at this stage as creativity and innovation are required to spur on the sector’s development and post-Covid-19 recovery.

This was the key highlight at the Official Opening of the Fourth Edition of Africa Youth in Tourism Innovation Summit and Challenge on Wednesday. The Summit was convened by Africa Tourism Partners in collaboration with the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

Namibia was selected as a host for the event after a bidding process and according to Shifeta, it is an important part of the country’s efforts to revive and recover the sector from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.

YOUTH KEY TO TOURISM: File photo for illustrative purposes only. Photo: Gondwana Collection Namibia.

Shifeta emphasised that young people are important agents of change in the tourism sector as the youth’s creativity and innovation are valuable assets to leverage digitalisation. This, he explained, is essential to transform the tourism economy and to increase its performance and contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Shifeta highlighted that the total tourism contribution to the economy almost doubled in 2019 to about N$28,8 billion, before experiencing a downward trajectory in 2020 and slowing down to about N$16,8 billion. He said that this was a result of Covid-19.

The impact that the pandemic had on the tourism sector was also underscored by the United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator ((RC), Sen Pang, who said that the closure of borders and the absence of international and national tourists had a major impact on the direct and indirect beneficiaries of the tourism sector and on the economies of all countries.

This was supported by the figures presented by the Director of Tourism and Gaming, Sebulon Chicalu, which indicate that tourist arrivals declined by 89,4% between 2019 and 2020. This, he showed, came with the closure of about 100 businesses in the country and the loss of about 4 300 jobs in the travel, tourism, hospitality and catering industries.

Although Chicalu indicated that the sector experienced some recovery after July 2021, further recovery is still necessary – and according to Shifeta, the key to this is youth empowerment, a view that was also echoed by the ministry’s Executive Director (ED), Teofilus Nghitila.

Nghitila explained that there is a need to leverage strong global partnerships to fully empower the youth in tourism. He said that this requires the facilitation of financial support towards youth-led Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). Moreover, he suggested, the youth must also be supported to drive the tourism sector forward, particularly in the area of digital technologies.

“Let us, as Government, private sector and stakeholders do our utmost to enable the youth to be agents of change and recovery for the sector and to be strong advocates for sustainable tourism,” Nghitila added.

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