THE number of tourists arriving into the country increased significantly, with an estimated 1.6 million tourist arrivals or 3.9% increase, reported for the years 2017-2018.
This covers all entries recorded at land borders, airports, as well as harbours.
This is according to a statistical report released by the Ministry of Environment on 21 January 2020, which delves into the status of the tourism sector in the country.
Tourism minister Pohamba Shifeta announced that internationally, the growth was mainly driven by the continuous increase of visitors mostly from Angola, South Africa, Zambia, Germany, Zimbabwe, Botswana, France, USA and the Netherlands.
Shifeta further stated that the African market has seen an increase in tourist arrivals, whilst tourist arrivals from European and Asian markets decreased.
In 2018, the results show that the number of tourist arrivals increased by 3.9% to 1,557,279 from 1,499,442 visitors recorded in 2017.
“The tourism sector has experienced an upward trend since 2012. The rise in international tourists is the lifeline of many African countries including Namibia, as money is injected into the economy. This rise gives a positive indication that the tourism sector will remain thriving for the economic growth during this economic crisis as being experienced globally,” Shifeta stated.
He further said that 41% of foreign arrivals came with the national airliner, Air Namibia.
Touching on the challenges experienced within the industry, Shifeta stated the Ministry of Environment and tourism is struggling to handle the increasing number tourist arrivals in the country with its current infrastructure and equipment inventory.
He further stated that he is working with the Road Authority (RA), as well as fiscus, to spend more on roads and allocate more funding to Ministry of Environment in the national budget.
Shifeta stated that roads become an issue especially during the rainy season, and that they have currently recruited contractors to fix roads at the Etosha national park.
Gita Paetzold, Chief Executive officer of the Hospital Association of Namibia (HAN), giving a comment at the report launch, stated that the sustainability of airlines are key to tourism.
She further stated that she has witnessed hesitancy by tour operators to book with Air Namibia, and as such, government needs to reassure the general market that people can rely on the national airliner.
She further stated that the state should also implement multiple entry visas, especially for tourists travelling through Namibia and its neighbouring sub-Saharan countries.
Paetzold also called on Shifeta for regulation on the Air BnB market as she noted that locals invest in properties which they rent out as Air BnBs, subsequently taking away business from formally established enterprises such as hotels and backpackers.
This, she said, has created a large dent in accommodation figures, which have decreased over time.