By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK Although many Namibians do not have a disposable income to go around exploring the beautiful scenery of their country, local tourists are now a common sight compared to years back. During the apartheid years, black Namibians were not allowed to enter tourism establishments, a law that has now changed. Even though the dawn of independence meant that locals could now patronise tourism establishments, there was no sophisticated local market because people were not earning high salaries. Peter Mietzner, Public Relations Officer of the Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR) says the build up of the black middle class has seen people having a disposable income, which they use to see the country. Unlike the economically challenged who do not visit the resorts due to lack of money and transport, the black middle class can now afford such luxury. Apart from issues of affordability, there is also a cultural aspect to it. The PRO said older generations would not see the need to go to tourism attractions because they grew up seeing wild animals in their villages. “But the third generation have never seen wild animals in their natural habitats,” he said. As an incentive for local people to get interested in seeing the natural beauty of Namibia, the NWR has put a discount on accommodation and entrance fees, which brings the amount way below the amount paid by foreign tourists. Local tourists are given a discount of 25 percent on accommodation throughout the year at all NWR resorts in the country. Senior citizens who are above the age of 60 years are given a discount of 35 percent. As far as entrance fees are concerned, at Etosha National Park for instance, Namibians pay N$30 while foreign tourists pay N$80. Due to the seasonality of foreign tourists, these incentives are also meant to allow locals to visit the tourism sites more often, which Mietzner said has started paying off starting five to six years ago. Namibians have become more interested in their country. The months between April and October are the peak seasons for foreign tourists, while November until March are mainly for locals and South Africans. The NWR, however, could not provide statistics indicating how many Namibians visit these establishments in a given year. Mietzner said that South Africans, mostly from the Cape region usually visit tourist attractions at Sesreim or Ai-Ais because of its proximity to the border. In 2004, some 716 000 tourists visited Namibia. This figure however only represents the tourists that arrived through airports and not road users. According to tourism figures of 2004, South Africans accounted for the largest number of tourists with 46 749 visitors, while Germans came second with 45 107 tourists. The third largest number of tourists came from the United Kingdom with 10 019 and Angola with 8 106 visitors. While the Italians, French, Swiss and Belgians visited for leisure, visitors from Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe visited for business reasons. In Namibia, tourism is the third largest contributor to the GDP. Estimates have it that it contributes about N$2.8 billion of the annual turnover to the national economy. It is also capable of providing more than 70 000 jobs in the country.
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