Namibia tourism on the rise

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Namibia has been rated as the fastest growing tourism industry in the world, the number one destination to travel with children, and the second most preferred country to visit in the world.

This was revealed by the Minister of Environment and Tourism Uahekua Herunga, who also announced that Angolans and South Africans make up the bulk of tourist traffic to Namibia, accounting for 703 207 visitors.

He said the New York tourism industry had recently voted Namibia as the fastest growing tourism sector in the world, while Lonely Planet - the world’s larget travel guide publisher - rated the Land of the Brave as the top destination for families with children.

Lonley Planet also said Namibia will globally be the second most preferred destination next year.
Herunga launched the 2012/13 Tourist Statistics Report and said Namibia’s top ten tourism markets are Angola, South Africa, Zambia, Germany, Zimbabwe, Botswana, the United Kingdom, the United States, France and Portugal.

Herunga said Namibia is doing very well as a tourist destination, but emphasised that there is always room for improvement, especially in the service industry.

He said tourists should receive value for money when they come to Namibia.

A record number of foreign arrivals - 1.37 million – were recorded last year, 1.7 million of which were tourists. This represented 86% of all foreign arrivals.

This figure is up from the 1.3 million foreign arrivals in 2012, of which 1.07 million were tourists. Tourist arrivals thus increased by 5% from 2011 to 2012 and by 9% from 2012 to 2013.

The increase in tourist arrivals are possibly due to major government and private sector intervention in the sector, according to the report.

“These figures give us confidence that we are making good progress in our efforts to grow and develop as a global sector,” said Herunga.

The ministry’s Director of Tourism and Gaming Sem Shikongo said that with the more than 1.1 million tourist arrivals of last year, the sector should keep in mind how many tourists it will be able to sustain. “We are a population of slightly more than two million and tourist arrivals are already reaching more than a million. We must keep in mind what the pressure on the country’s water will be and do we really want to see an Etosha with more cars than animals? Where will the cut off point for tourist arrivals be?” he asked.

Herunga said what makes the tourism sector in Namibia unique is its multiplying effect in contributing to the gross domestic product (GDP).

“Tourism touches every aspect of our society with its impact felt even in rural areas of the country.”

He said the report indicated how Namibia needs to enhance its image in terms of promotion and marketing, in order to promote its position as a destination.

“The tourism sector needs to diversify its tourism products, address seasonality and manage growth strategically. We should ensure that every new tourist visiting Namibia is given the best experience possible so that they return to Namibia,” said Herunga.

Tourist season
Most tourists visited Namibia during the season between May to September, which accounted for 42% of all tourists travelling to Namibia.
About 49.9% of tourists entered Namibia to visit friends and relatives, while 35.9% were leisure tourists and 12.5% were business tourists and 2% were visiting for other purposes.
The increase in visitor numbers was driven by African tourists, who made up the bulk of all tourists, including Angolans who mainly visit Namibia for medical and retail tourism.
However, 73% of overseas tourists, who represented 22% of all tourist arrivals in 2013, were leisure tourists, while only 14% came to visit friends and family and 6% were business tourists.
The average intended length of stay was 18 days for leisure tourists, 19 days for visiting friends and relatives and eight days for business tourism.
According to the report tourist arrivals from Africa increased by 10.4% between 2012 and 2013 to more than 900 000 and also constituted the largest number of all tourists to Namibia last year which was amount to 78 %.
Overall, overseas holiday tourist arrivals amounted to 187 064 in 2013, increasing from 181 830 the previous year and 176 857 in 2011.
The reports said the top overseas holiday tourist arrivals to Namibia have been led by Germany and the United Kingdom for several years. However, in 2013 the United States took second position.
Tourist arrivals from North America - the USA and Canada - amounted to 26 116 and have significantly increased from 2012 to 2013. In terms of North America 98% of their visitors were holiday tourists last year.
Tourist arrivals from Europe increased since 2011, but had not yet reached 2010 levels, when 219 069 visitors travelled to Namibia.
European tourists for last year stands at 199 655 and have increased from 198 219 in 2012.
It is also worth noting that tourists from China have significantly increased from 5 830 in 2012 to 9 910 last year, up from 4 035 in 2011.
The statistics show that the most popular points of entry used by tourists were through the northern border posts, Hosea Kutako International Airport, the northeastern border posts and the southern border posts.
Hosea Kutako as the main international airport was used by the majority of international tourists and the importance of upgrading Namibia’s airports was therefore stressed.
Shikongo said Namibia should upgrade its airport at Walvis Bay to prevent a similar situation as the one that happened this year, when Air Namibia airbus flights were not able to land at Hosea Kutako, after it was downgraded.
“The trouble that Air Namibia experienced earlier this year was not good for the industry.”
Shikongo pointed out that if the Walvis Bay Airport is upgraded so it can also handle international flights, Namibia will be able to retain these flights if a crisis should occur again, and not refer them to other countries.
“We need to get airports ready.”
He said the country should look into developing strategic fuelling points.
“If we are going to increase arrivals to the country we have to look at air travel.”
According to Herunga, air connectivity and tourism are inseparable.
He added that growth of aviation industry cannot be recorded without a healthy growth in the tourism sector and vice versa.
“We think it is high time that African airlines start working together and complement each other since they are competing with giant airlines.”
 

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