“Where the desert
meets the ocean”
An interview about the consequences of the Covid 19 pandemic for tourism in Namibia
Languages: The official language is English, but Namibia has over 30 spoken languages. Most spoken are Oshiwambo, Afrikaans, Otjiherero and German
Population: approx. 2,5 million
Did you know?
The country became Namibia in 1990 when it was granted independence from South Africa, which had taken over the territory during the First World War. Prior to that, South-West Africa was a colony of Germany. The history of German colonialism in Namibia is short but cruel: tens of thousands of Herero and Nama were killed by German troops during the colonial period in Namibia which marks what is considered the “first genocide of the 20th century”. The German government formally apologised for the genocide in 2004. 1
In 2020, Namibia rejected a compensation offer from Germany in the negotiations to come to terms with the colonial era. The German government’s offer to pay ten million euros in reparations is „not acceptable“ to President Hage Geingob. 2 However, Germany does not want to use the term „reparations“. Instead, it should speak of „healing the wounds“. The Namibian negotiating team, however, considers this term insufficient. 3
Namibia is a breath-taking country in the South West part of the African continent, which normally attracts over 40,000 tourists a month. However, between September and December 2020, the country only received about 6,700 tourists. It is estimated that Namibia’s tourism industry lost about 3.2 billion Namibian dollars (about 220 million US dollars) from travel-related service as a result of COVID-19, which has been devastating for one of the main contributors to the country’s economy.4 We spoke to Petrus Tuta Nangolo and Victory Nakalenga about the current tourism situation in Namibia. Tuta is co-owner of Kamatjona – a company based in Windhoek that offers accommodation, safari tours and sustainable volunteering for young-at-heart travellers. Victor is a tour operator based in Windhoek offering tours and safaris under the name Vision Tours and Safaris.
Interview with Petrus Tuta Nangolo and Victory Nakalenga
In your opinion, what makes Namibia unique?
Tuta: Namibia is the third least densely populated country in the world, home to the oldest desert, it is where the Kalahari meets the Namib desert. You can drive for hours in the desert without seeing any form of life, but surrounded by some of the world ’s tallest dunes and a clear blue sky above, you would feel so small and like the only one in the world. It is a place to escape away from everything.
Victor: Namibia is unique due to its diverse cultures, nature, wildlife and it has one of the oldest deserts in the world and the second largest canyon in the world. Namibia also happens to be the one of the least densely populated countries in the world.
Which places would you recommend to someone who wants to visit Namibia?
Tuta: Namibia is a very culturally diverse country with wide open space and an ever-changing landscape. Some places to visit in Namibia include:
Victor: I would highly recommend for anyone traveling to Namibia to Visit Sossusvlei, Fish River Canyon for magnificent scenic landscape and the Etosha National Park as it gives an experience of a divers wildlife.
How did your life change in regard to the Covid-19-pandemic?
Tuta: The tourism industry was probably hit the hardest by Covid 19. Before Covid 19 hit, our accommodation was fully occupied with international volunteers and interns, their supposed three months staying was cut short, they had to leave immediately because every country had to close their borders. Our tours we had already planned and paid for had to be cancelled and refunds had to be made. Our business was only 4 months old then and as a full-time entrepreneur this was my only source of income and it’s been a nightmare since.
Victor: My life was negatively affected by the effects of Covid-19. My source of income over the last 12 months has depleted drastically as the local and international lockdowns meant that tourism-related travel was restricted.
Did you receive any financial or other support from the government?
Tuta: We did not receive any financial support from the government. Fortunately, I have just completed a 4 months tech start-up program and won a prize for our business.
Victor: No, I have not received any financial assistance from the government.
How do you assess the government’s handling of the pandemic? Do people respect the restrictions?
Tuta: I believe the government did their best to control the situation, during the first phase of the lockdown people were following all the rules and protocols but now they seem to care less.
Victor: I definitely think the people responded well to adhere to the restrictions made by the government. I, however, think due to the fact that Namibia is less densely populated and due to the fact that Namibia has on average much warmer climate due to it being a semi-arid country a second lockdown was not necessary as this was the final nail in the coffin for most small businesses in the tourism sector.
What are the most pressing issues that the government should address during and after Corona? (e.g., stimulus packages, reformation of the health/school sector, …)
Tuta: The government introduced and had a budget for stimulus packages, specially targeting tourism companies, we applied but never got a reply. The social security of Namibia in charge of these packages never answered their phone so we gave up since. For a long time, our health system has been one of the best and I want to see it getting even better. I wish our government would be more transparent, that’s it!
Victor: I definitely think stimulus packages would be the starting point but again we live in the global south, thus it is not likely to happen. Education should be the prime focus as schools have already lost at least 12 months of consistent face-to-face classes.
Are you rather optimistic or pessimistic about the future? What would you wish for yourself/your country?
Tuta: I still have high hopes for our business and that things will be just fine one day, we have bookings for the next year 2022 already, but it’s not easy to keep hanging on as we still have bills to pay. But I never want to have thought of giving up because there is no point of return for me. I am very optimistic about the future of our country.
Victor: I think with the recent development of vaccines one can be a little optimistic. However, the reality on the ground is that the tourism sector will take between 2 – 5 years to recover and thus we require a lot of strength and hope.
- Deutschlandfunk (2020): “Deutschlands fast vergessene Kolonialgeschichte”, accessed at https://www.deutschlandfunkkultur.de/deutsch-suedwestafrika-deutschlands-fast-vergessene.976.de.html?dram:article_id=469599, last visited on 21.03.2021.
- The Guardian (2020): “Namibia rejects German compensation offer over colonial violence”, accessed at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/aug/12/namibia-rejects-german-compensation-offer-over-colonial-violence, last visited on 21.03.2021.
- ZDF (2020): “Namibia lehnt deutsches Angebot ab” accessed at https://www.zdf.de/nachrichten/politik/namibia-deutschland-entschaedigung-kolonialzeit-100.html, last visited 21.02.2021.
- CGTN (2021): “Namibia’s tourism industry loses $220 million due to COVID-19 pandemic” accessed at https://africa.cgtn.com/2021/02/17/namibias-tourism-industry-loses-220-million-due-to-covid-19-pandemic/, last visited on 21.03.2021.
- United Nations (2020): “Namibia declares State of Emergency due to COVID-19″, accessed at https://namibia.un.org/en/38970-namibia-declares-state-emergency-due-covid-19, last visited on 17.03. 2021.
- Wikipedia (2021): „COVID-19 pandemic in Namibia“ accessed at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COVID-19_pandemic_in_Namibia, last visited on 21.03.2021.
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