International arrivals in Namibia’s booming tourism sector are expected to hit one million by the end of the year, officials in the tourism sector said.
Digu Naobeb, CEO of Namibia Tourism Board (NTB), said Wednesday that international arrivals surged 11 percent to 928,000 in 2007.
He said in 2008, Namibia expected about 1 million international visitors.
Naobeb said that the 11 percent growth in tourists in 2007 was above the estimated average of 6 percent in the rest of the African continent.
Namibia’s Environment and Tourism Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah also said that Namibia was projected to have the fastest growth in travel and tourism.
It is estimated that between 2009 and 2018, the tourism sector would be contributing 10.5 percent to gross domestic product.
Employment in the sector is expected to grow by 7.4 percent, Nandi-Ndaitwah said.
Namibia, a sparsely populated country which is situated on the shores of the Atlantic ocean, is famous among international visitors for its rugged desert scenes and its wildlife, which thrives in vast nature reserves and game parks.
Conservation efforts have led to a dramatic increase in populations of lions, cheetahs, elephants and rhinos.
The draw-card for the tourism sector, officials said, is the usually rare elephants and, more importantly, the desert elephant.
Their relatively rarity in nature attracts thousands of tourists to Namibia to view the largest land mammals moving ponderously along dried-up river beds.
Naobeb said that players in the tourism sector currently do not have sufficient facilities to cater for the boom in arrivals.
“Basically,there isn’t enough accommodation facilities around at the moment and we are getting worried because supply is fast out-pacing demand,” Naobeb said.
Currently, the sector can still cope with budget travellers but facilities for upmarket clients are always over booked.
He added that players in the tourism sector would have to shore up investment in accommodation facilities as the country strategically positions itself to benefit from tourism spill-overs when South Africa hosts the World Cup in 2010.
Namibia also hopes to cash in on displaced tourists in 2010.
Naobeb also said that Namibia might face transport problems in 2010, adding that most car hire companies operating in Namibia are South African-based and are run from that country.
He also said increasing incidents of small aircraft crashes were denting Namibia’s reputation as a safe tourism destination.