Namibia: Blind Govt Policies Stifle Tourism Sector

The government's policies, regulations and limited knowledge of the tourism sector hamper the industry's growth and prevent the introduction of new product.

This was the view of the director of tourism in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Sem Shikongo, when responding to the findings of a study carried out to introduce products such as seal meat into the local market, a resource which is currently going to waste.

"Within the public sector, there is also need to talk among ourselves because my years in tourism have made me come to realise that the problem lies not so much with the private sector, but with officials in the government. Because sometimes we are regulating a sector that we do not understand," he said.

Shikongo was speaking at the Tour and Safari Association of Namibia (Tasa)'s 30th anniversary celebrations last Thursday.

Tasa is a voluntary, private sector body which acts on behalf of its members to encourage the development of responsible tourism in Namibia, ensure standards and reliability in the tourism sector, and further the common interests of Namibian tour operators.

"We don't understand the market structure of the sector, and we don't understand the market itself," he stated, calling for enhanced communication with the private sector. If the two don't communicate with each other, he pointed out, nothing tangible would be realised.

Shikongo then referred to the challenges involved in drafting the tourism growth strategy due to a lack of communication.

He also called for the tourism sector to be inclusive of all stakeholders, especially communities which have not benefited from the industry.

"But the pie is big. There is enough for all of us if we are willing to see the bigger picture, and see that there is enough for all of us to engage each other, share with each other, and realise that our greed will only lead to more tears." he continued.

The High-Level Panel on the Namibian Economy (HLPNE) also echoed Shikongo's sentiments in their job creation and recommendation report.

The panel highlighted some regulations, such as the professional drivers permit, which in some categories prohibits persons under the age of 25 from getting the permit required by tour operators.

They stated that such laws disadvantage the youth, and prevent the youth from being employed in jobs requiring the permit.

The panel added that the overall attitude of the country towards the service industry is also of concern.

"There is ignorance of what the sector offers in the country, especially among the youth when they consider areas to study," the panel highlighted.

They also found that soft skills in the tourism sector still do not receive enough focus.

The panel recommended that Namibia needs an "all of government" approach to educational reform to introduce tourism and basic customer service training in schools, and provide funding for training initiatives before the impact would be felt.

Tasa's chairman, Carsten von Lüttwitz, emphasised that the association was formed 30 years ago to encourage responsible tourism in the country, and ensure standards are met while furthering the common interests of Namibian tour operators.

He noted that Namibia has worked hard to become the tourist destination it is today, and the industry has experienced very healthy growth over the past decades.

Von Lüttwitz added: "As projections are looking for the next years, the growth trend will continue. In the last few years, most businesses topped all expectations, and this, of course, brought new challenges that we have to deal with."

Namibia ranks fourth on the African continent, and 81st in the world, in tourism. The sector and its supplementary services are projected to count for 11,7% of the country's gross domestic product in 2020, according to the HLPNE findings.

The sector is also projected to offer direct and indirect employment opportunities for around 123 000 people.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @Char_Ngatjiheue.

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