By Zelna Hengari
IT is a known fact that tourism is an important industry in Namibia. It currently contributes significantly towards the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), making it a valuable sector within the country.
Unlike other segments that have not been spared by the tough economic challenges the country is going through, the tourism industry has witnessed a tremendous boost over the past two years.
This tells us about the resilience within the industry and the key role it can play towards the attainment of the Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPP), the Fifth National Development Plan (NDP5) and the ultimate success of Vision 2030.
Even during the weakening of the Namibian dollar against other major currencies, the industry has seen a boost in visitors, along with increased revenue, due to the affordability experienced by international tourists travelling to Namibia.
However, credit must also be given to the exceptional work that has been done by the Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) in marketing Namibia as a destination of choice, along with Air Namibia, in getting foreign tourists into the country, especially from Namibia’s biggest source market – Germany.
It is for this reason that as the government continues to tighten its belt; it should not reach a point where the country reduces its expenditure within the industry to a point that results in a loss of momentum, which has been created over the past few years.
What could be of assistance is to continue investing in the sector; not only does this give the country an opportunity to expose itself to the world, but also Namibia benefits from the direct foreign exchange that comes with international tourists.
A recent Facebook post by Strive Masiyiwa, a well-known business person who travelled to Mauritius on holiday a few years ago, illustrates how further investments into the country can come from tourists. While in Mauritius, Masiyiwa was pleasantly surprised at how knowledgeable the taxi driver assigned to him was about the tourism industry and investment opportunities within his country. This interaction with the taxi driver and the hotel manager where he stayed later resulted in him coming back to invest in that country.
It is for this reason that we need to invest heavily towards customer service and product knowledge. This is not only at the tourism establishments, but at the different points of entry as well. To simply put it, the first impression of any guest is how they are welcomed when they arrive at the airports or any of the border posts. This experience creates a lasting impression on how they will perceive Namibia, and later inform their family and friends about their experience within the country. It is also important that we ensure the safety of the tourists while in the country, so that they do not suffer any criminal activities during their stay here.
In all earnest, the future looks bright for the industry. What is critical is for each one of us to keep building on what we have, in order to leave a solid foundation for future generations. It would be sad to get to a time when all the beauty we have is destroyed. That is why we should continue to guard against individuals that want to tamper with this. Lastly, the Namibian government deserves credit for their current and future efforts to safeguard our wild animals and the environment.
* Zelna Hengari is the Managing Director of Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR)
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