By Wezi Tjaronda
Namibia needs to invest more in marketing the country as a tourist destination all year round for it to attract investment especially in larger tourist facilities.
Due to the seasonality of the tourism market, the country has very few establishments that offer between 10 and 30 rooms, which poses a challenge to some outbound travel agents.
Seasonality remains the main challenge to investment in Namibia, said the Development of Sustainable Tourism Country Report: Namibia that was launched last Friday.
The report said Namibia did not have an abundance of large group facilities that can offer accommodation for tourist groups larger than 60, a concern that was raised recently by United Kingdom outbound travel agents who wanted to book 20 to 30 clients in one location at the same time.
“Larger overseas outbound agents block book hundreds of bed nights each season to ensure a supply of beds to sell to their potential clients,” said the report, adding that these agents do not, however, guarantee that they would sell the bed nights.
At the same time, accommodation providers cannot gamble on saving rooms for agents who may or may not actually use the rooms, which could lead to losses if wrong choices are made.
Although building larger facilities is an opportunity for investors, such rooms would only be needed during peak season and lie idle in off-peak season.
The report said this was the dilemma of a seasonal destination such as Namibia and highlighted the need for increased government investment in destination marketing by the Namibia Tourism Board.
The tourism industry is not a mass-market destination because only 37 establishments offer between 31 and 100 rooms. Some eight members of the Hospitality Association of Namibia have between one and four rooms, 124 establishments have between five and 10 rooms, 123 have between 11 and 30 rooms, while 22 have between 31 and 60 rooms. Only six establishments have more than 100 rooms while three have between 81 and 100 bedrooms.
Before 2004, most tourists arrived between end of June and end of September, a period that has expanded to between May and mid-November.
Expanding the months when tourists travel to Namibia, said the report, would increase tourist revenue and enhance job creation while offering a more attractive investment climate where profits could be gained all year round.
The Namibia Tourism Board has offices in South Africa and Germany and uses agencies in other European countries to market Namibia as a tourist destination.
Germany is the largest supplier of tourists to Namibia, followed by the UK and the US. In Africa, Angola and South Africa account for two thirds of arrivals in Namibia.
The aim of the country report was to provide an overview of the tourism policy environment in Namibia since independence with emphasis on tourism growth and development; analyse the regulatory environment for tourism in Namibia; provide an understanding of tourism supply and analyse tourism demand to identify market segments and tour operators that are likely to be attracted to sustainable tourism products.
The Namibia Community-Based Tourism Assistance Trust and the Federation of Namibian Tourism Associations prepared the report for the Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa, European Centre for Ecological and Agricultural Tourism and Nacobta as a case study to provide strategic guidance to support the establishment of a sustainable tourism certification initiative for southern Africa.