Travel bans: Tourism companies bleed N$2,1m each in one week
News - National | 2021-12-14
by Shelleygan Petersen
TOURISM companies have received cancellations well into 2022, signalling one of Namibia's most severe crises in the tourism sector in the past two years.
The tourism and hospitality sectors in Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe lost on average U$134 383 (N$2,1 million) per business in the first week after the new Omicron Covid-19 variant was identified.
This was revealed in a survey conducted by Africa's Eden Tourism Association, representing wide-ranging membership in Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
The head of the Hospitality Association of Namibia (HAN), Gitta Paetzold, has raised the alarm on the state of the industry which used to contribute 20% to the country's gross domestic product (GDP).
The industry has seen between 70% and 95% of bookings cancelled for its peak season, which runs from December to January, while new bookings have come to an abrupt halt.
This comes as over 30 countries, including the United Kingdom, United States, and European Union, imposed travel bans on and red-listed the southern African region.
"Tourism in Africa's Eden, including Namibia, for 2022 [will] also be doomed, and with it any hope of tourism recovery, with dire consequences for numerous companies' existence, jobs in tourism, and conservation," Paetzold says.
HAN has observed that the hesitancy to book destinations in southern Africa in advance is growing.
"In the past two years, travel bans and quarantine have not succeeded in halting the virus," she says.
The survey showed that travellers have now opted for postponements for an average of three years, stating they will come "after Covid ends".
Eden has also observed a 72% decrease on average in annual contributions towards communities and conservation.
An average contribution of US$126 700 (N$2 million) per business has been lost since the start of Covid-19.
There has also been a decrease in the procurement of goods and services due to Covid-19, the survey revealed.
"In 2019 we spent $25 million (N$399 million), in 2020 $1,2 million (N$19 million), and in 2021 $3,2 million (N$51 million)," the survey states.
It further reveals that the companies spent US$156 million (N$2,5 billion) less on procurement since the pandemic, and that multiple projects, to the tune of US$33 million (N$527 million), have been cancelled, impacting the local industry, in particular local small and medium enterprises.
"Members complain of skills losses also, as after two years of struggle, high-level staff, out of necessity, drift off to re-engineer their lives. One member complains of having lost all five of his food and beverage outlet managers to Dubai," Africa Eden found.
The survey highlights that Flightradar24, an app which shows the number of aircraft in the air globally at any given time, displays pitifully few planes in the air over southern Africa, as airlines have disappeared or shrunk to demand.
"A great many flight routes are not operating or are operating on reduced frequencies. The supply chain from key source markets is also badly damaged," the head of Africa's Eden Tourism Association, Jillian Blackbeard, says.
Most flights are seen over Europe, Asia, and the United States.
HAN has pleaded with the government to make "rational decisions that will allow for a harmonious and enjoyable time for all".
President Hage Geingob is set to announce new regulations in response to the increase in new Covid-19 infections this week.
The country's new infections shot up to 1 041 in 24 hours recently.
October was a month of hope as beds in lodges, hotels, and guest houses were fuller than earlier in the year, with a general bed occupancy rate of 34%.
This was 27% in September and 20% in August.
Paetzold says domestic travel has boomed since Covid-19 hit Namibia's shores.
They have been observing a balance of Europeans and Namibians at hospitality establishments, she says.
Thus far, there has been an occupancy rate of 47% from the European market and 38% from the Namibian market.
"Normally, we had 80% tourists and 20% Namibians, but we are seeing that this has changed," she says.
Paetzold says the increase in occupancy can be accredited to the revival of local tourism.
"We can see it is on track," she says.