Tourism sector bounces back to pre-pandemic level

Namibia’s tourism sector peak season has rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, with an August 2023 occupancy rate of 68,9%.

This is up from 60,98% in July this year.

Room occupancy rate is the yardstick aginst which performance in the sector is measured.

According to economic analysts Simonis Storm Securities, this marks a notable 7,6 percentage point increase from the 61,3% rate recorded in August 2022, and it stands as the highest occupancy rate since the last pre-pandemic peak of 69,9%.

“Given that September typically represents the peak month of the year, we anticipate that this September will surpass pre-pandemic levels,” Simonis says.

Year to date (YTD), the average occupancy rate stands at 49,1%, which is 2,1 percentage points below the 2019 average of 51,2%.

Nonetheless, this performance confirms the ongoing and much-needed recovery of the tourism sector, Simonis says.

“This positively contributes to gross domestic product (GDP), as increased tourist activity translates into higher consumer spending in the country, providing vital support to accommodation and tour operator businesses,” the analysts say.

According to Simonis, the northern regions made a significant upturn, recording the highest occupancy rate in August 2023 of 76,4%, compared to 62,5% in July 2023.

This is the first time since October 2022 that the northern area of the country has had the highest occupancy rate.

The southern area had the second-highest occupancy rate of 65,4% – 6,5 percentage points higher than the prior month, followed by the central area (62,1%) and the coastal area (61,9%).

“On average, tourism in the central area has surpassed pre-pandemic levels,” Simonis says.

YTD the average occupancy rate for the central area in 2023 (52,4%) has outperformed that of 2019 (50,5%) by 1,8 percentage point, while the other areas are between two and seven percentage points short, the analysts say.

The majority of tourists, at 51,7%, have shown a preference for the lodge experience in Namibia, which offers tourists a luxurious escape to nature.

The upswing in hotel occupancy rates in the central area can be attributed to tourists using these facilities as a resting point before embarking, mainly on self-driven journeys, to lodges located in the northern and southern regions, or before departing the country to their next destination.

For those seeking a closer connection with nature, tent camps, accounting for 14,6% of visitors, and tented lodges, representing 6,1%, offer an outdoor immersion experience.

This indicates that tourists predominantly seek an outdoor, nature-immersive experience, a quality that Namibia readily provides.

According to the analysis, YTD, Europeans make up a significant portion of our tourist demographic, accounting for 56,5%, a share similar to their representation in 2019, which stood at 49,8%.

Concurrently, Namibians constitute a smaller portion of the tourist pool at 23,7% in contrast to their 65,1% share in 2020.

“This shift is attributable to the increased number of tourists entering the country, reducing the proportional representation of Namibian tourists.

“In August 2023, the tourist composition consisted of 72,3% Europeans, 14,2% Namibians, 4,3% South Africans, and 2,2% Asians,” Simonis says.

Looking ahead, the analysts remained optimistic for the local tourism sector and its recovering trajectory.

According to the European Travel Commission, Europeans’ intent to travel has decreased by 4% compared to the previous year.

The decline in travel intent is ascribed to mounting financial pressures experienced by Europeans, coupled with concerns regarding elevated travel expenditures.

“This might cause a small dent in Namibian tourism given that Austrians, Swiss and Germans account for 34% of our tourists YTD.

“However, Namibia sustains its attractiveness as a destination owing to the depreciation of the rand, which has depreciated by 14,2% year on year against the euro at the time of this analysis,” Simonis says.

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