Tourism needs clarity; record low in bed nights

‘Everyone loses’

23 August 2020 | Tourism

Swakopmund • [email protected]

July is considered to be the beginning of Namibia’s high tourism season. While there was an average bed occupancy of almost 60% in July last year, it now stands at only 7.34% - decline of almost 88%.

“All accommodation establishments are recording losses,” Gitta Paetzold, Managing Director of the Hospitality Association of Namibia (HAN), said yesterday.

Paetzold published the latest statistics on bed occupancy in Namibia. As expected, the data reflects a shocking reality. No establishment has been spared the effects of the corona crisis.

However, there is a silver lining – albeit a small one – since bed occupancy in July increased slightly compared to occupancy in May, when only 5.91% of beds were occupied. In June it was 7.18%.

“Statistics of under 8% are far from the profit zone of around 40 to 45% that applies to average tourism businesses,” Paetzold said.

For this reason, all establishments are eagerly anticipating the reopening of the national borders and a resumption in the flow of tourism. “We can no longer close the borders without hurting our people,” she said.

However, it is not only Namibia that is affected by the Covid crisis – almost the entire world is standing still.

“Between January and May, the sudden and rapid decline in tourism income cost an estimated U$320 billion, which is three times higher than the effect of the recession of 2007 to 2009 on this sector. And this only applies to the first five months of the year,” the World Tourism Organisation (WTO) said.

The WTO describes the reopening of some countries’ borders for tourism as a welcome relief – although it is not enough.

“People in leadership positions who have influence must now do everything possible to encourage people to travel again,” the WTO asked.

“In Namibia there is much uncertainty about the future of the tourism industry,” Paetzold said.

Although President Hage Geingob announced the opening of the borders earlier, the precise modalities of the tourism revitalisation strategy are still being negotiated.

“Many companies ask themselves what happens after September 17th, when the state of emergency ends. Will the state of emergency be extended or not, and if so, what will happen next?”

Meanwhile, Namibia is currently experiencing its first high season without tourists. Thus Paetzold hopes that the modalities will be ironed out quickly so that visitors can soon be welcomed.

“We are currently losing valuable time and actually hope that we can save at least some part of the season. The industry is well positioned to serve tourists despite Covid.”

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