Windhoek — Namibians have not recognised the potential that exists in the tourism sector and its possible contribution to national wealth, said Klemens /Awarab the marketing manager of the Namibia Tourism Board (NTB).
He said even if the country improves its service delivery in the tourism sector, tourism would remain the least priority in relation to the sector's contribution to the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which amounted to N$11 billion in 2011.
"But the tourism budget is still cut, while it has the potential to create jobs," /Awarab said during a high-level seminar on service delivery in the hospitality and tourism industry that took place last week in Windhoek.
In addition to job creation, the industry's mass empowerment potential is not even recognised, /Awarab said.
The tourism sector makes many unrecognised contributions to the country's secondary industries such as transport and can potentially save the world through its acclaimed conservation programmes, he said.
"Somebody needs to [recognise] and appreciate our tourism potential," he maintained.
/Awarab further highlighted the importance of effective service delivery in boosting Namibia's image, increasing sales, ensuring industry growth, ensuring repeat business due to loyalty, and cheap and effective marketing by word of mouth, while retaining and creating more jobs directly and indirectly.
What hampers progress in the industry, /Awarab said, is the Treasury's insufficient funding to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and the NTB.
"Imagine what we could do, if only we could be given N$500 million over a three-year period out of the N$11 billion that the industry made in 2011. We will propel the industry to greater heights," /Awarab said.
The conference also identified perceptions as among the challenges for the sector, with the public perceiving tourism as something for the wealthy and elite.
Conference goers all agreed that the tourism sector has the potential to become the highest contributor to GDP.
A recent Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report of the World Economic Forum ranked Namibia at 83, and at number three in Sub-Saharan Africa.
In 2007, Namibia ranked 93 out of a total of 133 countries.