THE number of tourists who visited Namibia from overseas in 2011 declined by 10% compared to the previous year.
The number of Europeans who visited Namibia last year was 11,2% lower than in 2010. There was no growth in tourist numbers from North America and a decrease of 9% from other non-African countries.
The minister of environment and tourism, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, said in the report that the decline was probably the result of the global financial crisis affecting industrialised countries, especially the euro zone.
“The implications are therefore that we need to look at different key areas in the industry that may include the demographics in our source markets, work towards excellent customer service delivery and invest in our tourism infrastructure and human resources to grow and maintain a competitive edge ...”
The total number of tourists to Namibia grew by 4,4% in 2011 compared to 2010, but the growth was only in the number of tourists from African countries.
A total of 1 027 229 tourists visited the country last year, including 784 579 from African countries.
Like in 2010, most of the tourists came from Angola, South Africa, Germany, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, United Kingdom (UK), the United States of America (USA), France and Netherlands.
The highest number of African tourists came from Angola (35,2%) and South Africa (26,6%).
More men visited Namibia last year (60,5%) than women (39,5%). This was similar to 2010.
The majority of tourists visited Namibia for holiday and leisure, while others came to visit family and friends.
Most tourists entered the country through the northern border posts, while the second most used port of entry was the Hosea Kutako International Airport.
During 2011, the average number of days that tourists stayed in the country declined by two days from the previous year – from 19 to 17 days.
The most commonly used means of transport by tourists while in the country was road (71%) “due to the large number of tourists coming from Angola and South Africa who prefer to use ground transportation”.
July to September remained the peak tourist season – accounting for 43,3% (or 444 769) of all tourists.
The report says that tourism, especially leisure tourism, is a discretionary expense and therefore vulnerable to mood swings. “Thus, if the public is fearful of not having enough money to pay basic necessities then for many people there is a tendency to pull back and seek less expensive options. This decline in foreign travel will be especially hurtful to those parts of the developing world, such as Africa, including Namibia, whose tourism sector has long depended on overseas foreign visitors.”
According to Nandi-Ndaitwah, tourism is very important to Namibia’s economy, as it provides a livelihood in remote areas where there are few economic opportunities.
“In order for the Namibian tourism sector to continue to grow and develop and to be sustainable yet competitive, we need to have a thorough understanding of our tourism sector and know its true dimension. The government and all stakeholders need to have up-to-date, reliable and comprehensive information on foreign visitors to Namibia.”
She said it was important to note from which countries tourists came, what the purpose of their visit was, their point of entry and how long they stayed in the country. “These statistics provide useful data for investment, planning tourism development and further research.”