In order to maintain a positive growth and Namibia’s competitiveness in the world tourism market, marketing strategies should be improved to promote the country as a quality and value-for-money destination.
This advice is contained in the 2015 Tourist Statistical Report officially launched by the Minister of Environment and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta, on Wednesday.
The report states that stakeholders in the tourism sector should be encouraged to be innovative by coming up with new products, provide excellent services in order to attract more tourists and encourage current and old tourists to return.
Over 1.5 million people arrived in Namibia in 2015, representing a three percent increase from 2014 when 1.4 million arrivals were recorded.
Out of the total foreign arrivals recorded, a large number of 1.38 million were tourists, 15 580 were returning residents and 99 883 were same-day visitors.
The report suggests that it is imperative that the Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) as a matter of priority starts to implement the relevant provisions and strategies outlined in the National Sustainable Tourism Growth and Development Strategy, in partnership with relevant stakeholders.
Shifeta revealed that Cabinet and parliament approved the National Sustainable Tourism Growth and Development Strategy and the National Tourism Investment Profile and Promotion Strategy in July this year.
The key objective of these strategies is to transform Namibia into the most competitive tourism destination in Africa.
In this regard, NTB chief executive officer Digu //Naobeb said terms of reference have been worked out and by mid-September be adverts will be placed in newspapers calling for tenders to establish a National Strategy.
“By beginning of next year, we should be able to have one in place which will inform even our foreign missions as to the strategic market sources we will be focusing on.”
Namibia has seen a decline in tourism markets, such as from China, India and Russia, among other countries.
//Naobeb said the National Strategy would map out the marketing tourism and intelligence research to inform the markets.
“China, for example – they need a transit visa to pass through Johannesburg. After all the consultations it was only now lifted, around February or March this year – that they don’t need a visa.
However, still troubling is that they need to have two connections because there are only two direct flights out of Hong Kong to Johannesburg, or out of Beijing. But now if you are living in Shanghai, then you have to fly to Hong Kong or Beijing to Johannesburg, and then to Namibia. And too bad – many tourists don’t like to do these types of connections,” he said.
He said Namibia could use direct routes such as Doha and Shanghai to Windhoek to develop the Chinese market, as they will reduce travelling time.
In a move to improve tourism markets, Shifeta said, it is high time that African airlines start working together and complement each other since they are competing with giant airlines.
“Air connectivity and tourism are inseparable – the airline industry refers to them as passengers, and we call them tourists. The growth of aviation cannot be recorded without a healthy growth in the tourism sector and vice versa,” the minister said.
Shifeta expressed gratitude that the Dutch airlines KLM has announced its flights to Namibia that will start later this year, while Qatar Airlines will start flying to Namibia also this year. All these, he said, create and enhance connectivity and airlift and he is hopeful that it will have a positive impact on tourist arrivals.
Qatar Airlines is expected to start flying from Doha to Windhoek with four weekly direct flights from the 28th of this month, whereas KLM will start flying from Amsterdam to Luanda, then to Windhoek, three times a week from the 30th of next month.
“At this stage perhaps we should start considering the goal of making the tourism sector the largest contributor to the national treasury. This means we need to become competitive in skills and training development, be the country of choice for prospective investors, achieve high levels of interaction between all stakeholders, develop more innovative, market-related tourism products and be aggressive in tourism marketing that ensures return on investment,” Shifeta maintained.