By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK Due to its excellent track record in managing tourism in the Southern Africa bloc, Namibia was chosen as host for the high-level Tourism 2006 SADC-European Union conference that got under way in the capital yesterday. Over 300 delegates, investors and tourism enterprise representatives converged at a local resort to chart the way forward in growing the lucrative tourism industry in the region. Over the next three days, Namibia would become a ‘One-Stop-Investment-Shop’ for Tourism 2006 which is an initiative designed to promote business partnerships and investment in boosting the regional tourism and hospitality sector. Officially opening the conference on behalf of President Hifikepunye Pohamba, Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Libertina Amathila, urged international partners, the SADC private sector, EU representatives and potential investors to join hands in Southern Africa in creating a sustainable tourism sector. “We believe that such partnerships and cooperation are pivotal to the achievements of our aims and objectives for social and economic prosperity for all our people,” said Amathila. Revenue generated through tourism would alleviate and hopefully eradicate the growing challenges of poverty, hunger and underdevelopment. As for Namibia, tourism activities have reaped great benefits for the country’s economy and the people as a whole, especially through the sustainable use of natural resources. According to the recently launched Tourism Satellite Account estimations, the tourism sector contributes 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 business. The industry is also capable of contributing to conservation, wildlife and biodiversity protection. In his welcoming speech, Minister of Environment and Tourism, Willem Konjore, said it is remarkable to see that the tourism sector is growing from strength to strength. “It is a sector with an excellent potential for further growth in the short and medium,” said Konjore, adding that it brings much-needed foreign exchange into the country. Until Friday this week, the conference delegates will be looking at diverse topics related to the tourism industry in the region. “These include: “Success via new approaches to tourism investment in Southern Africa”, “Success stories in tourism business for Southern Africa”, and “Success in achieving investment – getting finance for your project.” “It’s all about linkages and partnerships making it the first step in the investment process. It’s about getting the whole region together where investors can boost wealth accumulation in the SADC Region,” explained Programme Manager of ESIPP, John Rowan, during an interview with the media. Rowan added that the aim is to focus on regional opportunities in tourism rather than challenges. The ongoing Tourism 2006 conference is organised by the Southern African Development Community and the European Commission, under the auspices of the EU-SADC Investment Promotion Programme (ESIPP) in close cooperation with the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Ministry of Trade and Industry, the Namibia Tourism Board, the Namibia Investment Centre and the Federation of Namibia Tourism Associations (FENATA).