… As accidents involving tourists escalate
By Volodymyr Lakomov
CAR rental companies have warned Namibian tourism agencies to advise their customers to be more careful of road conditions throughout Namibia’s major tourism spots, such as Twyfelfontein, Sossusvlei, and other locations around the Namib Desert as well as Damaraland as tourist fatalities have escalated during the season.
Despite the fact that the legal speed limit for gravel roads is 80km/hour, the car rental agencies believe that it is ‘still too much’ and unaccustomed tourists may endanger their lives due to roads’ rough surface, corrugation, potholes, as well as local reckless behaviour and bottlenecks from high truck volumes.
Roads such as the C33, C34, C35, C36, C14, D1982, and B2 (Arandis/ Usakos, Swakop/Walvis) routes have been designated as regional hotspots with multiple problems that complicate a tourist’s journey throughout Namibian sightseeing spots.
Isabelle Gerin, who works for the XO Adventure, a tourism agency that serves European French-speaking tourists, has expressed concern that poor road quality may lead to negative effects on the tourist industry throughout Namibia.
“Most of our clients are driving themselves through car-rental, and the bad state of the Namibian gravel roads for the moment severely impacts the time they travel from one lodge to another,” she said.
“The problem is that, instead of having five hours to do a stage, they would take eight hours. They will arrive late in the afternoon or in the evening at the place where they are supposed to be around lunchtime.”
According to Gerin, the economic effects of the roads are detrimental to the tourist industry. “The thing is that the clients, especially the self-drive ones, like to report their travel in Namibia on their blog.
“If they say that road conditions are terrible, there will be a lot of clients that will not come anymore.”
As for Namibian tourism enterprises, the effect will be even more drastic as they would be forced to change their routes, Gerin believes. “In our agency, we will have to rethink the tourist stages for the clients to smaller stages. Instead of 300 km per day it would turn into 150 km per day, and it will take more time for them to visit Namibia and most of our clients do not exceed 15 days in Namibia.” Summer tourist fatalities have also increased relative to previous years. According to the Motor Vehicle Accident Fund’s crash report, the total number of fatalities this year has relatively increased by 7.4 percent from last year. “There are some accidents, due to over-speeding by unaccustomed tourist drivers. Unfortunately, it is their own fault, but some accidents do actually occur because of the terrible state of the roads.” In terms of road maintenance, the Road Authority (RA) does conduct regular maintenance of the roads, but according to the tourist agencies, it’s the first year that “it’s so bad”. “We addressed the RA, and now apparently they are busy on certain portion of roads. For us, it’s the end of the really high season in Namibia, but we still have a lot of clients coming in September, October, and November. Normally, these roads are maintained on a regular basis, especially, in June before the clients arrive.”
“For us, tourism is one of the most important economic sources of revenue and it’s a real pity that just because some roads are not well-maintained on time, it can damage the whole tourism economy and it’s a lot of income for Namibia.” Efforts to get hold of RA proved futile and the Erongo police indicated that it does not deal with the issue of road accidents.
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