by Ndanki Kahiurika
THE Hospitality Association of Namibia’s chief executive officer, Gitta Paetzold, says travel agents have been working day and night to find ways of transporting tourists back home.
The association has a membership of over 50 lodges, hotels and campsites across Namibia.
She said this yesterday when asked about the impact of the coronavirus (Covid-19) on the industry and how the industry is coping.
Paetzold said it has been a challenge for the travel agents, as more countries and airlines are imposing bans and closures, including airports shutting down.
Apart from Germany that is shipping its citizens back home from all over the globe, the US is also shipping back its Peace Corp volunteers, she said.
“We have been advising all our members about the evolving situation and have urged them to inform their guests of the changing situation and eventual shutdowns and lockdowns,” she said.
To her, the lockdown may mean that those who are still in the country would be stranded for the next three weeks. She hopes emergency travel could help these tourists, who find themselves in such situations.
She advised all in the industry to brave the upcoming weeks of isolations and to rather stay at home instead of jeopardising their business by not taking precautions.
“#Stayhome is the new norm for us in tourism. As a paradox, it may seem the only way to get us through. These four weeks may be the smallest price to pay to limit risk and losing an entire business in the long run. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures,” she said.
The Namibia Tourism Board’s Digu //Naobeb was quoted by a local daily, New Era, as saying most lodges are busy with refunds because tourists pay for their stay in advance.
Pohamba Shifeta, the tourism minister, told the media recently that Namibia is a small economy with businesses that depend on day-to-day income. Without this income, there are fears of job losses.
He urged the sector to uphold the safety and health of their staff members by providing them with protective wear and necessities, which include sanitisers, masks and gloves.