Be a Tourist in Your Own Country

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By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK “Be a tourist in your own country” – this slogan has been coined by the Namibian Tourism Board (NTB) in its quest to encourage Namibians to travel within their own country and boost domestic tourism. It turns out that international visitors know more about the flora and fauna of Namibia than the locals themselves. In actual fact, for a long time the tourism sector has largely been invisible to most Namibians. “Why must I travel somewhere else if I can just go to my farm. It’s less expensive!” is a common sentiment coming from the ordinary man in the street. “Travelling is really time-consuming because I was born here and there’s no need for me to move around,” says another. However, in an effort to encourage domestic tourism in Namibia, NTB is engaged in an ongoing drive to lure more locals to explore their own country and enjoy the beauty that the country is endowed with. As a first step, the NTB recently took some media representatives on an educational trip to the Sossusvlei area, which is known for its attractive desert dunes and sunsets. The aim of the three-day trip early this month was to promote domestic tourism and to expose them to what Namibia has to offer and ultimately pass this on to the general public. “Namibians are not aware of the very good tourism products in the country, because perhaps once enough awareness is obtained, Namibians can develop a passion for travelling through the country,” said Maggy Mbako, Personal Assistant to the Chief Executive Officer of NTB, during a recent interview with New Era. Although there is public concern about the costs at many of the country’s resorts and lodges, many potential local tourists are not aware of the 25 percent discount which locals enjoy. During the celebration of World Tourism Day and Tourism Expo this year, various stakeholders in the tourism sector urged Namibians to actively participate in the country’s tourism sector, either as investors in or as visitors to the country’s diverse and vast destinations. “We need to sensitize Namibians that they become tourists in their own country. There are many Namibians who have not visited our national tourism attractions like Sossusvlei or Damaraland,” said Deputy Minister of Environment and Tourism, Leon Jooste, at the Namibia Tourism Expo 2006. It appears that foreign visitors come in droves during the high tourist season, but in low seasons locals can support the industry through recreational tours offered at reduced prices. Tourism can also be offered as a learning curve for future generations who might not be aware of their rich cultural heritage. Jooste emphasized the need for locals to make time to see what the industry has to offer. According to the latest tourism statistics issued by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, 777ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 890 tourists visited Namibia during 2005. A closer look at tourist arrivals shows that from 2002 to 2005 this was a modest growth of about 3 percent. Quite remarkably and with ongoing awareness on domestic tourism occupancy levels of locals are increasing. Looking at the NTB’s overview of the industry’s performance, Namibians represented the largest portion of 30 percent of guests to accommodation facilities, followed by German-speaking visitors with 28 percent, and third, South Africa with 15 percent. However, much more needs to be done on the ground to lure more locals into this sector. It is estimated that this year, travel and tourism in Namibia account for up to 71ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 000 jobs, of which 18ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 000 come directly from tourism businesses

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