Windhoek – Intra-SADC tourism has increased at a time traditional European and Chinese tourist numbers have dwindled because of ongoing global economic challenges, Namibian Minister of Environment and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta, has said.
Releasing Namibia’s latest tourism statistics, Shifeta said his country experienced a 3 percent tourism growth courtesy of improved tourist arrivals from Angola, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
“It is imperative that we start taking intra-regional tourism very serious as this has potential to increase our revenue in the sector. For a few years, tourist numbers from Angola have gone down but since their economy started improving, we have started seeing an increase in arrivals from them.
“The same can also be said about South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. There is a regular movement of tourists from these countries into Namibia and more than 75 percent of them are people who are coming to enjoy their holidays and spend their money,” he said.
The latest Namibian tourist arrival figures shows that South Africans remain the top visitors to Namibia while Angola comes second, Zambia third, Zimbabweans fourth and Germans occupy position five.
Shifeta added that Namibia had also managed to maintain the close relationship with Germany which continues to grow as a traditional tourist market while the European visitors have slowed down due to a rather challenging global economic environment.
He said Namibia will continue to promote intra-regional and intra-Africa tourism in the future with the aim of creating a fall-back position for Namibia in instances where the traditional tourists do not meet the expectations.
“Most Asian visitors who came to Namibia were primarily on business and the prevailing challenging economic climate worldwide could easily be the reason why there is a significant decrease of visitors from that part of the world,” he said.
Ironically, the decrease in Asian tourist numbers in Namibia comes at a time there has been a deliberate move by the country and other SADC member states are tapping into the Asian market for improved tourist arrivals as well as to create a stronger business link with that region.
Shifeta said Namibia was making a deliberate move to push tourism as an economic enabler and also to create employment for the largely unemployed youths. He said the government made a deliberate move to place tourism as a key pillar of the country’s economic blue print, the Harambee Prosperity Plan which is meant to make the country an upper middle class in economy by 2030.
He added that while figures continued to improve, Namibia and the SADC region needed to continue with robust marketing for the tourism destinations that they have to the rest of the world.