By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Despite a string of fuel hikes that has the potential to negatively impact on the tourism industry, Namibia has in the past year recorded positive growth in the fast-growing tourism sector. Yesterday an expert in Tourism Development and Planning in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism Dr Rukee Tjingaete revealed statistics from 2005 that show an improvement in the number of tourists who visited Namibia. When compared to 2004, the number of tourists who came by air last year increased by 18 186. “Air arrivals increased from a total of 167 162 in 2004 to a total of 185 348 during 2005,” he said. Although the industry would like to retain its traditional markets and see a continuous increase in the number of tourists, Tjingaete expressed concern at the rapid increase in fuel price and the announcements on short notices. He said this is likely to have a long-term impact on the car rental industry especially that most bookings are made in advance. Although the situation could be viewed as beyond the nation’s control, he said proper information should be channeled by the right sources to consumers in tourism. Retaining tourists has always been a problem in Namibia. According to Tjingaete this can be attributed to the monotonous marketing of same products. He added that there is a need to enhance and add value to existing products. The industry, he emphasised, should strive to attract quality tourism and not quantity because quality could easily translate into generating higher revenue. In terms of quantity, there was a general increase of 11.9 percent in the population of the tourists who came to Namibia in 2005 while in terms of quality, a conservative growth of 3.9 per cent in Europe was recorded. Positive growth was achieved in source markets such as the Scandinavian countries, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and South Africa. Despite the growth, Tjingaete feels there is a great need to find ways of keeping the traditional markets and also to improve the current record especially in countries such as Germany, which has a record of a 5.5 percent growth rate. Low performers during the past year were Austria, United States of America and some European countries. Spain, Portugal and Belgium experienced a decrease of 21.49 percent, 22.11 percent and 22.80 percent respectively. Tjingaete could not speculate the factors leading to this decrease. On the contrary, tourism is peaking in the north-east of the country. However, there is a need for aggressive marketing and investment planning in infrastructure. Last week, the Zambian Tourism Board announced its huge investment in the industry to attract tourists, particularly to towns such as Livingstone because of the Victoria Falls. Tjingaete says Namibia should also consider upgrading the M’pacha airport to link Caprivi to the Victoria Falls and Etosha. “Namibia has to position itself to capture Victoria Falls arrivals.” Foreign arrivals for 2005 amounted to 973 168 and the number of tourists was 777 890. “Overall 2005 could be considered a good year due to the increase in the tourist figures and the country’s capacity in retaining the traditional markets through growth indicators. This is a further testimony that the Namibian tourism industry is on the right track,” he stated. In spite of this growth of 11.89 percent recorded in 2005, according to the preliminary data gathered by the UNWTO for 2006, this growth is slightly below the 12 percent growth rate for Sub-Saharan Africa.
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