April 27, 2007

Country's infrastructure great aid for tourism, says report

Due to unparalleled growth of the hospitality sector, Namibia has the potential to become one of Africa's leading travel and tourism economies over the next decade - an economic boost that would compliment mining, agriculture and fishing. According to Director of Tourism in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Albert Mieze, travel and tourism encompassed transport, accommodation, catering, recreation and services for visitors, and this encourages the government to develop the country's infrastructure to attract tourists. He noted that due to the improvement in the infrastructure network in the country, the number of tourists visiting Namibia has grown from a mere 2.000 to 800.000 visitors each year.
According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) report, Namibia's existing infrastructure is a great asset to its travel and tourism economy. "Nevertheless, certain decisions need to be taken, both to extend the basic infrastructure, such as airports, roads, communications, water and electricity supply, and also to ensure that infrastructure will be sufficient in the future to encourage potential investment and support the growth of travel and tourism," he said. There is potential to improve Namibia's road and rail facilities, port facilities for cruise ships, intercity bus/coach services and train travel that will benefit not only travel and tourism but the country's population as a whole, Mieze noted. He also stressed that Namibia did not need a large number of visitors because its environment could not accommodate large numbers owing to its dry conditions. The country could only accommodate small numbers of visitors whose spending helps to improve the country's economy. "Competition of tourists in SADC or around the world is growing," he observed, adding that Namibia kept on encouraging tourists to come back as it continuously builds facilities to international standards while maintaining political stability and reducing crime.
"Also, experience has shown that demand for any tourist destination grows sharply if marketing and promotions are well funded and effective in the country, but international awareness of Namibia and its tourism product is relatively low, particularly compared with countries such as Kenya, South Africa and Zambia", the WTTC report states.
Mieze stated that international tourism influx to the country reveals that German-speaking visitors and those from Austria and Switzerland made up the majority at 10 percent of all tourists because of colonial history and links. These people also keep on coming back because of the country's unique landscape, but one of Namibia's main attractions for tourism is that it is easy to explore independently. The openness of the country, sandy beaches, spectacular desert scenery and the world-renowned Etosha Pan, mostly attract tourists, he said. (New Era, Windhoek)

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