Windhoek-The Minister of Environment and Tourism Pohamba Shifeta says the recent xenophobic attacks in neighbouring South Africa have not negatively affected Namibia.
In an interview with New Era on the sidelines of the inauguration of five Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) members on Thursday, Shifeta said such factors in the region can negatively affect other nations, but so far have not impacted the local tourism sector.
The NTB is now chaired by Paul Brinkmann who together with Silas Shakumu, Madelein /Goagoses, Terance Makari and Marie Friede are the new board members.
Recently many South African nationals have reportedly taken the law into their own hands against Nigerians and some other foreign nationals for allegedly committing crimes in the community. Some shops belonging to immigrants were looted in Pretoria, South Africa’s capital.
“So far what happened in South Africa did not affect Namibia. Namibia has a very good reputation internationally and tourists, wherever they are, always talk about Namibia,” Shifeta said.
Shifeta announced his plan to achieve two million tourist arrivals to the country within the next three years. Namibia recorded 1.51 million foreign arrivals for 2015, a 3 percent increase from 2014 when the figure was 1.4 million.
Of the total foreign arrivals recorded, 1.38 million were tourists while 15 580 were returning residents and 99 883 same-day visitors.
Asked on how Namibia plans to achieve such a huge target, Shifeta responded: “We will achieve the two million within three years in the absence of any factors that may intervene. As it is now, at the rate of growth we are moving, the possibility of achieving the two million is there, no doubt about that,” he said.
According to him, there is a need to cover more tourist markets such as Asia and some parts of Western Europe that “are not coming on board”. He however said a good number of tourists come from eastern and central Europe.
He noted that through aggressive marketing the northern African and American markets are responding better.
Shifeta said there is a need to upgrade Namibia’s aviation industry in terms of facilities due to the increasing number of airlines that introduced their flights in Namibia. Three new airlines were recently introduced in the country – Ethiopian, Qatar and KLM airlines.
“Sometimes tourists want to come but the facilities are not really good. Sometimes the three airlines all come and there is no capacity to handle that number. You find a queue and sometimes the tourists endure the heat and rain. We don’t want that to happen,” he stressed.
He said he visited Hosea Kutako International Airport last week, accompanied by the Inspector General of the Namibian Police, Sebastian Ndeitunga, to assess the facilities for security reasons for tourist arrivals and saw there was a need to increase capacity of personnel and enhance infrastructure development once funds are available.
“We identified some things that really need to be tackled as soon as possible, especially personnel. We are supposed to double personnel, especially now with more airlines arriving. That’s on the side of the police, customs and immigration,” he noted.
Even though the country is faced with financial constraints any loopholes should be fixed, he said.
According to him, there are times when 10 police officers are needed on duty but there is no space.
He argued that with the increased number of airlines, there is a need to have more police officers deployed at the airport.