Africa: Namibia’s hospitality and tourism sector may lose N$20b as hotel occupancy figures drops

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Namibia’s hospitality and tourism industry stands to lose a whopping $20 billion due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the sector.

This is just as hotel occupancy rate in the hospitality sector dipped due to the absence of tourists to the country.

Namibia’s Minister of environment, forestry and tourism Pohamba Shifeta recently said the tourism industry stands to bleed N$20 billion at the current rate of zero tourist arrivals.

According to namibian.com.na, the Hospitality Association of Namibia (HAN) recorded a national average of less than 8% occupancy for the 76 institutions surveyed in June.

This is according to statistics provided by the association’s chief executive officer, Gitta Paetzold. The data includes statistics from June 2019 and 2020, as well as the second quarter of both years.

“While there is much talk and hype about the catastrophic impact the global lockdown and travel ban measures have had on the tourism sector since the onset of Covid-19, nothing seems to tell it as clearly as naked facts.

There were concerted efforts for domestic tourism promotion, attractive packaging and pricing to encourage Namibians to travel and experience the beauty of their motherland, and we in tourism were grateful to see some Namibians take up this offer, hopeful that we could win them over as good ambassadors for tourism in Namibia,” Paetzold says.

However, Paetzold says even with these efforts, the domestic tourism market alone cannot carry the sector.

“The reality is clear: As much as domestic tourism is a key element for our sector, and has been since the first ‘tourism begins at home’, ‘local is lekker’, and other domestic tourism campaigns since 2006, in joint efforts with the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism, the Namibia Tourism Board and the industry at large, for tourism in Namibia to survive, we need the resumption of leisure travel and the reopening of borders,” she says.

According to HAN’s June 2020 statistics, the 76 institutions surveyed had a 7,71% room occupancy rate and a 6,33% bed occupancy rate.

Regionally, the south experienced the lowest rates, recording 4,21% room occupancy and 3,95% bed occupancy.

The central regions recorded room occupancy of 10,2% and bed occupancy of 8,2%, while institutions in the northern regions recorded room and bed occupancies of 6,62% and 6,97%, respectively.
These figures are in comparison with the 51,2% room occupancy rate recorded nationally during the same period last year.

The 2019 data shows that in all regions, the majority of guests were visiting for leisure purposes.

The coastal, northern and southern regions all recorded leisure travel of 90% and more, while in the central regions, about 52% of visitors were for leisure.

The coastal regions recorded a significantly lower amount of leisure travel guests this year.

While the central, northern and southern regions recorded leisure travel percentages of 62,6%, 90,9% and 97,8% respectively, coastal towns recorded only 42,7%.

Coastal towns, which are tourism hotspots, have been particularly hard hit as the Erongo region quickly became the epicentre of Covid-19.

As of yesterday afternoon, the Erongo region had totalled 1402 positive Covid-19 cases – most at Walvis Bay.

Swakopmund, Walvis Bay and Arandis remain under stage 3 of lockdown, which includes strict travel restrictions into, out of and between the towns.

Some guest houses and hotels say they are getting no business whatsoever; while others indicated they have been closed during this period.

“We’ve had no guests at all because nobody can come into the region. We’ve been closed for almost four months,” says the manager of The Rez Walvis Bay, Malani Grobler. The Rez is a luxury guest house at the town that offers speciality lodging, with a largely foreign clientele.

Grobler says while many of their guests postponed their visits, some have cancelled altogether.

Sea Breeze guest house at Swakopmund says it is experiencing a similar fate.

“People who were supposed to stay here this time around are rebooking for next year. But there’s still a lot of cancellations nonetheless,” says the guest house’s general manager.

The guest house’s clientele is also mostly international.
Meanwhile, occupancy and clientele in other parts of the country are slowly starting to pick up as guest houses and lodges offer promotions to lure domestic clients.

Banqueting manager at Droombos Estate, Anna-Ward Shilongo, says they have had an increased amount of bookings in recent months.
Although Namibia’s borders were officially opened last week to balance economic operations, it remains unclear when the country can expect foreign tourism to pick up again.

Minister of environment, forestry and tourism Pohamba Shifeta recently said the tourism industry stands to bleed N$20 billion at the current rate of zero tourist arrivals.

Source: namibian.com.na

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