THE usually flourishing tourism industry in Namibia has taken the hardest knock so far during the coronavirus pandemic compared to other industries, with major hotels and accommodation facilities this month alone reporting the largest volume of cancellations that they have ever seen at once.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Hospitality Association of Namibia (HAN), Gitta Petzold, said while the country is currently still in low tourism season, so the low number of tourists in Namibia are not necessarily reflective of the coronavirus pandemic, they have seen massive cancellations and the lack of forward bookings.
Petzold further noted that they have seen over 30% decline in bookings compared to the standard rate of bookings at this time of the year, while the postponement of travel plans to the next year in effect means that tourism business will be without income this year and only a few companies have enough reserves and cashflow to survive such a scenario.
The situation is expected to go from bad to worse in the next few weeks as the global infection and death rates increase and countries, including Namibia, put in place temporary travel bans.
According to global statistics, airlines have already lost 33% of business, and the forward bookings are nearly 40% down.
Even ground-bound travel is down 35%, as people have an overall hesitancy to travel at this point.
It seems that while people may not yet be afraid of contracting the virus when travelling to Namibia, they fear being quarantined there on arrival, and hence do not even want to travel.
Currently, screening is done at Hosea Kutako International Airport, Eros and the Walvis Bay Airports and the Port of Walvis Bay, with the Ministry extending control services to the border posts.
Petzold urged the government to assist, where possible, to keep tourism companies afloat and avoid major job losses.
The appeal from tourism to relevant authorities is to consider incentives, tax breaks on registered tourism entities to help them overcome the acute cashflow that is envisaged, as business, even if not cancelled, is being postponed with the likelihood of none or only limited income for the rest of year.