By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK The Hospitality Association of Namibia (HAN) yesterday launched the Tourism Trade Forum and Tourism Congress 2006. The tourism forum and congress will serve as a platform to discuss ways of tackling challenges in this sector. Based on the World Travel and Tourism Council’s findings on tourism in Namibia, the Namibia Tourism Satellite Account revealed that the broader travel and tourism sector economy is expected to contribute over 16% to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and offer around 70 000 jobs. The Chief Executive Officer of HAN, Gitta Paetzold, feels the industry needs to be redefined to clearly disseminate information to citizens on its potential. In realizing the potential of tourism, HAN has taken the initiative to broaden its annual programme of the Tourism Trade Forum to include a Tourism Congress for all sectors within tourism. “HAN and the organized tourism industry have taken up the challenge and the HTTP & Tourism Congress 2006 is to be seen as a first step in co-coordinating efforts and promoting effective co-operation of all players involved in the tourism industry, to achieve the goals and meet major challenges the tourism industry faces in realizing its full potential.” In support of the activities of HAN, Standard Bank donated N$27 000 to the organization. The N$22 000 will go to the hosting of the congress while N$5 000 will be allocated to the award-giving ceremony. The Managing Director of Standard Bank, Theo Mberirua, believes Namibia has the potential to become one of Africa’s leading tourism destinations over the next 10 years. “We have witnessed tremendous growth in this industry over the last few years and are sure to witness an even greater growth in the years to come,” he said. The forecast growth in the industry in the next ten years stands at an annual growth rate of 6.9% and if this becomes a reality, tourism will contribute 22.9% to Namibia’s GDP by 2016. The industry has been identified in both Vision 2030 and the National Development Plan 3 as a priority sector by the government. Mberirua said his bank would remain an ardent supporter of the industry. The congress starts on November 17, 2006 and concludes on November 18.