Tourism: Where Are the Locals?

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By Francis Mukuzunga WINDHOEK Namibians have been urged to actively participate in the country’s tourism sector, either as investors in, or as visitors to the country’s vast and diverse destinations. Foreign visitors come in droves during the high tourism season – but in low seasons, locals can support the industry through recreational tours offered at reduced costs. At a ceremony to celebrate World Tourism Day in Windhoek yesterday, participants agreed that the time was ripe that Africans at large and Namibians in particular should support their own tourism industry. Tourism also offered a learning curve for future generations who might not be aware of their rich cultural heritage, it was deliberated. The day was celebrated under the international theme, ‘Tourism Enriches’ to foster awareness among the nations and peoples of the world about the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic values, and in Windhoek was attended by various players from the local sector. Minister of Environment and Tourism, Willem Konjore, who was the guest of honour, reminded the gathering that tourism has an excellent potential for further growth in the short and medium terms. He urged locals to take advantage of the tranquil and friendly environment that currently prevails in the country. “Tourism plays an increasingly important role in the socio-economic development of Namibia, facilitating the creation of additional employment opportunities, providing much needed foreign exchange earnings, and stimulating the development of new infrastructure,” he said. He added that active participation by all the stakeholders was needed in order to ensure the sustainability of the tourism industry and its marketing and promotion of development initiatives. “Marketing should be done in such a way that an enticing message reaches our potential markets. To achieve this goal, Namibia should maintain high product standards to meet the requirements of international tourism,” he said. A fortnight ago, Namibia launched its own Tourism Satellite Account (TSA). Konjore described the TSA as a valuable tool that all Namibians can use in order to take responsibility for the sector and also to take stock of what the sector is capable of achieving. The TSA estimations have revealed that the sector is able to contribute up to N$6.8 billion to the Namibian economy. “This figure comprises revenue generated from accommodation, tour operators, hunting, car rentals, inbound travel, domestic travel, investment in the sector as well as other tourism-related businesses,” he said. It is currently estimated that in 2006 travel and tourism in Namibia will account for up to 71 000 jobs of which 18 000 will be directly derived from tourism businesses. “Namibia offers a combination of tourism experiences that are generally classified under beach, bush, desert, adventure, culture and business gateways, to capture the imagination of our visitors who want to experience a diversity of tourism products in a single country,” he told the gathering. The Mayor of Windhoek, Councillor Mathew Shikongo, also added his voice to the call for Namibians to support their own industry. In his welcoming remarks, Shikongo urged Namibians, especially residents in and around Windhoek City, to protect their environment by maintaining a clean and friendly atmosphere that the capital is known for. He said Windhoek is in most cases the first port of call for all tourists coming into the country and therefore it is everyone’s duty to take responsibility for its well-being. Meanwhile, a number of exhibitors ranging from the City of Windhoek, to countries such as Nigeria, Indonesia and Malaysia were also at Zoo Park to showcase what their respective countries have to offer in terms of tourism. Staff from the respective embassies handed out brochures and dished out various cuisines from their countries. The day’s activities were complemented by music and art displays from Namibia to make it a truly international cultural and tourism day.