Namibia: Dysfunctional European Airports Dent Nam Tourism

DYSFUNCTIONAL airports at Namibia's top tourist markets might limit the number of flights coming to Namibia, thereby limiting tourist inflows into the country, until the situation has been resolved.

According to a report by Simonis Storm, in countries across Europe, thousands of flight cancellations have occurred because of shortages in airport and airline staff.

The report says Italy, France, Portugal and Belgium face potential staff strikes for better pay, while in Britain, many laid-off workers left the industry or retired altogether, according to The Economist magazine.

Thousands of flights cancellations and delays have occurred in the US due to staff shortages, particularly shortages in pilots, according to the Transportation Security Administration. There is a backlog in companies retraining pilots who were on temporary forced leave.

This most likely arose as Covid lockdowns exposed vulnerabilities and job security risks in this sector.

Covid-19 regulations in Namibia's top tourist markets have been reduced significantly in recent months, with Germany, the United Kingdom and Switzerland considered less stringent than Namibia.

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"The virus has become something countries have learnt to live with and we see continued potential for Namibia's tourist arrivals to rise further," said Simonis.

The latest quarterly gross domestic product figures show a slower expansion of 4,4% y/y in the first quarter of 2022 in the hotels and restaurant sector, a proxy for the tourism sector.

Given that recent national occupancy rates and foreign arrivals have crept closer to pre-pandemic levels, this sector could continue to provide support to overall economic growth in 2022, Simonis observed.

The national occupancy data analysed on a monthly basis can be used to gauge economic growth rates in the hotels and restaurants sector, said the analysts.

A national occupancy rate of 32,1% was recorded last month, compared to 39,4% in May and 16,7% in June 2021, according to figures from the Hospitality Association of Namibia (HAN).

Year to date, the national occupancy rate averages 29,6%, compared to 21,5% for the same period last year, showing an improvement in tourist inflows.

Provisional bookings across most hospitality establishments indicate that Namibia's high tourism season, from July to September, should see much improved levels compared to 2021, said HAN.

According to the Simonis analysis, the proportion of Namibian visitors at local establishments increased slightly from 30,6% of guests in May 2022 to 34,0% in June 2022.

Most foreign guests in June 2022 came from Germany, Switzerland and Austria (27,1%), South Africa (12,8%), France (5,8%) and the United States and Canada (3,7%).

Regarding purpose of travel into Namibia last month, 92,3% of the visitors came for leisure, 5,0% for business and 2,7% for conferences. Hospitality establishments in the central area recorded the highest occupancy rate (39,3%), followed by the coastal area (33,5%), southern area (31,8%) and northern area (27,6%).

According to HAN chief executive officer Gitta Paetzold: "Namibia is a prime destination for the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (Mice) market, as we have the capacity for conference and exhibitions, especially in Windhoek and at Swakopmund, with average-sized conference facilities."

During 1Q2022, Namibia recorded 27 862 foreign arrivals, with 12,9% visiting Namibia for business or conference purposes, according to the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism.

Namibia has already hosted a number of large-scale international events such as the United Nations COP 11, the upcoming UNWTO Youth in Tourism summit although there have been complaints from industry that the permanent conference facilities Namibia holds are not suitable for huge events, such as auto mobile and other huge industrial exhibitions.

Another drawback is the lack of a convention bureau/official conference coordinating agency or centre for Namibia.

However, more recently there have been talks to set up a bureau by the Namibia Investment Promotion and Development Board and Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism, Simonis says.

The Namibia Tourism Board is also contemplating setting up a convention bureau to coordinate international events and proactively market Namibia's Mice market, but it seems to lack the capacity and financial back-up to do so.

"It would be key for the government to make work of a united approach for this Namibian convention bureau/centre to be established," Simonis noted.

Email: [email protected]

Artmotion S.Africa

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