WINDHOEK – Tourism has been identified in Vision 2030 as one of the pillars of Namibia’s economic growth and is one of the few industries that contribute directly to poverty alleviation and economic development in rural areas. This is according to the Minister of Environment and Tourism, Uahekua Herunga, who made the remarks during the official opening of the fifth Partners Symposium and Annual Conference for the Global Partnership of Sustainable Tourism that is taking place at a local Windhoek hotel.
The symposium, which ends on Wednesday, is expected to attract about 300 participants and will include local, regional and international speakers delving into issues affecting sustainable tourism, both locally and globally. The theme of this year’s conference is ‘Advancing Sustainable Tourism: Securing the Legacy of Our Cultural and Natural Heritage”.
“The inclusion of tourism as a major pillar in the National Development Plan 4, combined with Vision 2030, has given priority to the tourism sector by availing resources to promote Namibia as a prime tourist destination and a haven for tourist investment,” said Herunga. The tourism minister, however, added that the country’s tourism sector needs to streamline efforts to preserve and conserve Namibia’s biodiversity in the face of adversity from the impact of climate change and other environmental challenges. He added that Namibia’s effort towards conservation is a global success story that echoes across the continent and is seen as an example of how a nation and its biodiversity base can be transformed.
“In terms of sustainability, as a government, we believe that the resource user is the best manager. This has been translated into our policies and legislation and granting the rights to the sustainable use of our natural resources, especially our wildlife by our communities, has resulted in conservation on a grand scale as never been seen before,” remarked Herunga.
The direct contribution of travel and tourism to Namibia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2013 was over N$3 billion or about three percent of GDP. Overall, about 27 percent of all employment in the country is generated through travel and tourism and in 2013 the sector generated approximately 24 000 jobs directly, signifying 4.5 percent of total employment. Today, there are 83 registered communal conservancies in the country, covering 19 percent of the land area and directly benefitting over 250 000 rural Namibians.
Of the 83 registered conservancies, 33 are immediately adjacent to national parks or in key corridors between protected areas. Namibia’s successful conservation stories are in stark contrast to most African countries where wildlife populations and habitants are rapidly declining. In fact, Namibia is the only African country with expanding free-roaming lion and giraffe populations.