|Overview : |
Tourism is a priority sector for economic development in Namibia’s Fifth National Development Plan (NDP 5) and has been one of the most successful and fast-growing sectors of the Namibian economy over recent years. Tourism statistical reports have shown sustained year on year increases in tourist arrivals to Namibia since independence with a record 1.557 million visitors having arrived in 2018. It is also a key provider of employment with the National Labour Force Survey of 2016 estimating that 47,840 Namibians were employed in the accommodation and food service sector.
The first Covid-19 positive case was reported in Namibia on 14th March 2020. This resulted in a range of measures to contain the spread of the virus, on the 17th of March 2020 a State of Emergency was declared, followed by an immediate two regions’ lockdowns, travel restrictions and bans, closure of national borders, restrictions on gatherings and movements, and total ban on sale of alcohol. Additional measures included instituting 14-day quarantine measures for people from high risk countries, working from home policy, and closure of selected ports of entry with the exception of essential goods and services. When the country registered its 16 cases, a total countrywide/ national lockdown was declared in April 2020.
The Namibian economy does not operate in isolation to the global and regional trading trends; therefore, it was not immune to the effects of COVID-19. Namibia being a relatively young developing economic activity country, the fallout from COVID-19 could be amplified on the country. Upon the declaration of the state of emergency and lockdown measures, all the non-essential services were halted. This included instructing all non-essential organizations, state owned enterprises including NGO/CBO’s, private sector and government ministries to lockdown, limit or operate in isolation for all business operations for an initial period of 21 days. Such measures have had both positive and negative impacts on the vibrant economic sectors of the country.
Firstly, the closure of borders and the complete absence of visitors from abroad since March 2020 has had a major impact on the direct and indirect beneficiaries of the tourism sector such as accommodation facilities (i.e. hotels and lodges), travel agents, airlines, vehicle rental companies, tour operators, hunting operators as well as restaurants and entertainment facilities (including cultural dances/performances and arts & crafts) targeting tourists.
Secondly, nature-based tourism (NBT) has been negatively affected through restrictions on movements and gatherings and through fewer visitors to National Protected Areas (NPA) and community managed conservation areas, famously known as Communal Conservancies and Community Forests. This has had adverse effects on total value chains associated with these conservation management practices (i.e. multiple land uses) and has highly underscored the importance of tourism for livelihoods and well-being of majority of the local and indigenous communities in Namibia’s rural areas. Although many of the Namibian people live in rural areas, recent trends indicate that there have been increases in the rural-urban migration to chase better living conditions and improved standards of life. It further highlighted the interdependencies between human, animal and environmental health, biodiversity loss, widening inequality and climate change.
Thirdly, the unprecedented socio-economic impacts of the pandemic on the tourism sector has undoubtedly created a sort of crisis for Namibia considering the cumulative benefits (wildlife, people and economy) of the country’s conservation efforts. Thus, there is a need to understand, measure and quantify the nature of the impacts. Following on the understanding of the impacts, there is an opportunity to rebuild the tourism sector by rethinking the country’s approach to tourism to ensure that Namibia becomes a more sustainable destination, and for tourism to enrich the lives of all people through a sector which is financially self-sustaining in the longer term. This calls for a development of a time bound and well-defined strategy to rebuild the tourism sector.
The strategy will build on the country’s international tourism revival initiative, with its’ the implementation protocols approved in August 2020. This initiative commenced from 1st September 2020. With Covid-19 likely to continue into the foreseeable future, there is a stronger need to build on this initiative, upscale and broaden its measures over the medium term (i.e. 3-5 years).
Current COVID-19 statistics. Namibia has recorded a cumulative total of 10,526 COVID-19 confirmed cases, and 111 deaths (CFR 1.08%); up to 8,112 cases have recovered, and to date there are 2,301 active cases. There are 436 Health care workers (4.16%) infected with COVID-19 in the country.
 According to the latest Namibia COVID-19 SITREPs No.186, as of 20th September 2020