The Chairperson of the Namibia Travel and Tourism Forum, Nrupesh Soni, has advised the government to increase its budget allocation to the tourism sector this year for the industry's speedy recovery.
According to the World Travel and Tourism Council report of 2022, the travel and tourism industry contributed more than N$19.4 million to Namibia's GDP in 2021.
According to the report, the travel and tourism industry contributed more than N$29 million in 2019, before the outbreak of COVID-19.
During the COVID pandemic in 2020, the sector's contribution declined to N$15.4 million.
"The tourism industry suffered massively during 2020–2021. You can see in 2019 that our figures went very high; we were almost at 8% growth every year, and then we dropped by 50%. If you look at jobs and the number of tourists coming in, you can see the increase has been very quick and much better than expected, and if you look at neighboring countries, ours is way better in southern Africa."
Soni says in order for the sector to pick up where it left off before the COVID-19 pandemic, the government needs to increase its budget allocation.
"I think we definitely need to increase the budget during 2021–2022. We got very little of the MEFT budget allocated to tourism last year; we only had about N$17 million, which is hardly enough to grow at the speed we want to, but if the industry is growing and the ministry can see that it is worth investing more, we can definitely have a larger growth, and tourism companies can have a lot of confidence in spending and increasing their assets and vehicles."
In 2021, the sector provided about 94,000 jobs, which is an increase from the 87,000 jobs it created in 2020, while in 2019 it created over 108,000 jobs
"If you look at the graduates who are looking for jobs, you can see the demand has gone up in the last four months. There is still a lot of hesitancy from a lot of the companies in employing brand new graduates because they don't have the experience and that is where we need to fill the gap."
Soni urged Namibians who want to venture into the tourism sector to take advantage now and start, as traveling globally is expected to increase as most countries have eased their COVID-19 pandemic travel restrictions.
"I think anybody who has a passion for tourism in Namibia must jump in now because a lot more younger tourists are coming and we didn't have an off-season last year because we kept saying there wouldn't be an off-season going forward. Younger people just wanna travel, and this is where we need to be ready the whole year."
Globally, the sector contributed N$5.8 billion in 2021, compared to over N$9.6 billion in 2019 before COVID.