Environment and Tourism Minister Pohamba Shifeta says his ministry has achieved most of the desired outcomes of the Fourth National Development Plan (NDP4) over the past five years.
These include the National Sustainable Tourism Growth and Development Strategy 2016-20126, which was finalised and approved by parliament in July 2016.
These strategies were launched in October 2016 and disseminated to key stakeholders and the general public.
Shifeta revealed during the ministry’s strategic planning workshop last week that the ministry aimed to develop a new five-year strategic plan.
Another achievement he highlighted is the establishment of the National Tourism Competiveness Advisory Council (NTCAC) and the inter-ministerial tourism development committee.
He explained that the inter-ministerial committee will look at issues of policy, regulations and laws that affect the industry, whereas the advisory council will look at identifying issues that hamper the growth and business environment of the sector.
He noted that the tourist report for 2013, 2014 and 2015 was also launched and disseminated.
“The tourist statistical report is being compiled and almost complete,” he said.
Another achievement is the establishment of 82 communal conservancies, aimed to improve the living standard of rural communities and poverty eradication.
On the international arena, he said, the ministry has made great strides in applying best practices in wildlife conservation and the protection of biodiversity.
Therefore, he said, the ministry should leverage on this strength by ensuring that more tourists come and witness the beauty of Namibia.
The minister wants to see an increased local participation and beneficiation from the country’s natural resources by local people.
“It is not good enough for us to be viewed as leaders in the fields of conversation when we cannot leverage on this to increase the number of tourists that can boost our economy,” he noted.
The fact that Namibia is regarded as one of the leaders in Africa and the world in conservation and biodiversity is a call that conservation should improve people’s lives out of poverty.
Shifeta said it is not good enough to boast about good conservation practices if they do not translate to poverty alleviation for local people.
Shifeta said the time has come to find innovative ways to elevate the tourism industry’s contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP).
He cited neighbour Zimbabwe leveraging on Victoria Falls, Mauritius on its blue oceans and Kenya on its wildlife.
He said a lot of work has to go into remodelling Namibia’s tourism industry to be a real driver of economic growth and poverty alleviation.
One of the major outcomes he expects from the strategic plan is the realisation that tourism can be a source of competitive advantage for Namibia, saying there is a need to look at ways to develop new products and services that will set the country apart as an exciting tourism destination.