Dear colleagues, partners and members,
I hope everything is going well with each of you and your loved-ones, and that you are healthy and not too much affected by the COVID pandemic that has hit the world so very unfairly. As you all have witnessed, this past season Namibia went through a terrible drought, with some places worse than others. I am very happy to report that most areas in Namibia have had some magnificent rains and we were all very eager to showcase this beauty. Unfortunately, the year 2020 has thrown us another big curveball with no positive outcome, especially after the nice break from the four years of drought and a recession in Namibia.
This communication serves to inform all members of developments happening at the moment due to the Covid-19 crisis.
The Corona lockdown measures that hit the world in early 2020 has caused devastation within the global tourism sector, and here in Namibia, the impact has been catastrophic. Since the travel ban, income has been wiped out, not only for large companies, but also for the individual free lance operator, tour guide and street vending souvenir artist.
As early as March, FENATA, which is the umbrella body for all tourism sectors in Namibia, actively engaged with the Ministry of Tourism, Forestry and Environment and relevant authorities to look at possibilities of a tourism recovery, while actively drafting special operating procedures to help prepare the tourism sector for the new demands for safe working environments, resulting in the NTB Tourism toolkit.
The tourism sector understood government’s prompt reaction in March to close borders and call for a national lock-down, to contain the spread of the virus and allow Namibia as a whole to prepare for the onset of the virus-spread through our country. Efforts were aimed at demonstrating the tourism sector’s commitment and responsibility to the nation’s health and safety, and thus aimed towards extensive risk mitigation in terms of preventing the spread of the virus. From the initial status of shell-shock in March and April, the tourism sector however soon realised that something would need to be done to prevent total paralysis and following active engagement and sharing of facts and status quo, we were delighted to see government’s willingness to open up tourism for a trial period from mid-July, in the hope that careful deliberation and collaboration in risk mitigation would prove that Namibia would be ready to provide a safe enough environment in which to operate.
In the global reality of threats and doom, we are convinced that risk optimisation is key to ensure that Namibia makes use of carefully considered opportunities to recover some of the losses in tourism and enable Namibia to attract some of the foreign income earnings so desperately needed for our frail economy.
The delay in committing to a date and pronouncing an “all-of-government” support for a gradual and carefully considered tourism recovery, is currently suffocating the last bit of hope in our industry. The last few days have seen another massive wave of cancellations of tours for August and September, (traditionally the tourism high season) and partners in transport and aviation that had indicated eagerness to resume connections to Namibia have now also retracted offers and delayed their return until October.
The Federation of Namibian Tourism Associations, through the active and intense support and submission from its members and key stakeholders in tourism, all of whom have invested heavily into the tourism infrastructure in Namibia, – has done all it could to impress upon the leadership the necessity of allowing a careful resumption of operations to ensure the survival of the sector.
Our biggest hope now lies in government to demonstrate political will and understanding of the important economic impact tourism has on Namibia. Just as tourism is committed to risk mitigation and safety, we need government’s commitment and support to allow us to resume operations to rescue not only our sector, but the Namibian economy as a whole.
Our biggest frustration at the moment is that government has zero communication to the public and tourism sectors on the way forward and also does not follow through with any plans made.
We are still convinced that Namibia is the “Destination of Choice”, – as the type of tourism our country offers is focussed on wide open spaces, freedom, isolation into the wild and all of this away from congested, over-populated environments. The tourism industry in Namibia has committed itself to new protocols of hygiene and safety and has invested the little available funds remaining to set up for the new norms in tourism and travel.
The four different clubs in Namibia, together with our partners, would like to assure you that we are ready to welcome and have you in Namibia. We are in constant communication with our different partners and will revert news to all of you as soon as we receive such.
In the meantime, we urge all of you to continue to make plans as if Namibia will be open for the 2020/2021 Flying season, the same as we are already planning for the best season yet to come. Let us rather live in hope and make new plans if needs be, but for now, please reserve your spot.
Lots of flying regards,
Gysbert van der Westhuyzen