Federation of Namibia Tourism Associations (Fenata) Chief Executive Officer, Jackie Asheeke, has said while the tourism sector has great potential for employment creation, more people can be absorbed in the sector if it grows in terms of increased tourism figures.
For every 11 or 12 tourists coming in, one job is created, she said.
Asheeke said while the tourists arrival figure – 931111 last year – is big in comparison to the size of the Namibian population, there remains unused accommodation capacity for additional tourists during off-peak months, that is in November, February, March, April and May.
“[We] have the capacity to sustainably absorb more tourists and still protect our delicate eco-systems and preserve our biodiversity,” said Asheeke last week at the Employment Creation Summit.
The Namibian Tourism Board (NTB) said the average national bed occupancy for 2009 was 31 percent. In 2008, it was 32 percent.
In 1993, it was estimated that 254000 tourists would create 20000 direct and indirect jobs in the tourism sector.
By 2007, with the arrival of 928000 tourists, it was estimated that 74000 direct and indirect jobs would be created.
Notwithstanding, said Asheeke, it is difficult to capture the value of tourism to employment creation because many jobs are cross-cutting over different sectors.
In 2006, the Tourism Satellite Account (TSA) quantified these values and projected that tourism would have contributed over N$7.13 billion in revenue by the following year, in 2007.
“That is no small thing. You cannot get something for nothing in this world,” said Asheeke.
She added that tourism requires investment to grow, saying: “Tourism doesn’t just ‘happen’. It must be developed to generate profits and opportunities for employment that justify the original investment.”
She proposed a N$2 billion to N$3 billion investment to build a cruise ship as a “longer term winner” for job creation, and the creation of a dock capacity that can accommodate two to three ships per week at a tourism-oriented port.
What is in demand, she said, are the national parks and State protected areas, as well as communal conservancies.
These places, said Asheeke, should be strengthened and supported with training, marketing and enterprise development.
She advocated for more money to be allocated to the NTB, saying that Namibia is currently being marketed on a “chicken-feed budget” of N$43 million.
In 2007, it was established that the NTB needed a N$70 million budget, but this has yet not been allocated.
“We don’t want to be the world’s best kept holiday secret!” she emphasised.
She also said continued investment should go to Air Namibia, which carries one-third of the tourists.
Equally, she said, administrative and bureaucratic barriers and non-service attitudes should be lifted.
“Service is not servitude,” she said.
Asheeke said the Labour Act makes it difficult to rid the sector of unproductive workers, and thus dampen employment creation.
Moreover, she said, a regional land board which is in the process of developing a tax on tourism lodges will push up rental fees already paid to communal conservancies that are in joint venture agreement with lodges.