Walvis Bay — The coastal tourism and hospitality fraternity says there was a notably decline in the number of visitors from South Africa during the festive season, but observed an increase in visitors from Botswana.
There was also an increase in the number of tourists at the coast from other African countries such as Zambia, a positive sign as Namibia positions herself as a prime regional tourism destination.
African tourists visiting Namibia continue to steadily increase, while Namibia remains a major tourist destination for tourists from Germany and the rest of Europe.
Those who spoke to New Era regarding the festive season that officially ends next week indicated Batswana currently top the list of African visitors to Namibia. There were also many visitors from Zambia, Lesotho and Malawi.
The steep decline in South African tourists, according to the coastal tourism industry, could be as a result of the sluggish economic situation experienced during 2017 by South Africa - that has also slowed that country's tourism.
Booking officer and co-owner of Tommy's Living Desert Tours, Kit Collard, yesterday told New Era that they had served more European and German tourists this year, followed by those from Botswana, compared to last year, which was dominated by South Africans.
"We definitely received less South African and Namibian tourists this year. Normally South Africans top our list but they were very few this year," she said. "We nevertheless had quite a busy season once again."
Rauha Amutenya from Desert Explorers also told New Era that the current festive season was also a hive of activity for them, as they also received good numbers of visitors.
"Our camel rides, boat cruises, kayaking and skydiving were once again in demand, so you can imagine how busy we were," she said.
Amutenya added that they also had less South African tourists this year compared to previous years.
"However, what we observed is that more and more Batswana are exploring Namibia. We also had a few African tourists from Zambia which is actually a positive sign that Namibia is reaffirming its position in the tourism industry," she said.
Sharon Swiegers from Sandwich Harbour Tours also told New Era that they had a good festive season, business-wise, and that there was a slight increase in African tourists that visited the coastal areas.
"We were at our busiest during the festive season although it was shorter than usual," she said. She added that they also experienced a decline in South African tourists during the festive season.
Andreas Namene from Walvis Bay Tour Guides also said that they had one of the busiest festive seasons ever.
According to him, Namibia is on the right path in terms of attracting more African tourists. "Even though we did not receive more tourists from Namibia and South Africa during the festive season, we received quite a large number of tourist from Botswana," he said.
Tourism in Namibia is a major industry, contributing N$7.2 billion to the country's gross domestic product. Annually over one million travellers visit Namibia, with roughly one in three coming from South Africa, then Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy and France.
The country is among the prime destinations in Africa and is known for its ecotourism, which features Namibia's extensive wildlife. In December 2010, Lonely Planet named Namibia the fifth best tourism destination in the world in terms of value.