Minister of Environment and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta, says tourism is underappreciated as an economic driver in the country as reflected in the budget allocation.
He said this on Wednesday when he launched this year’s Tourism Expo which is running under the theme ‘Conservation: small things matter’.
Shifeta said while tourism is recognized as the most competitive industry globally, Namibia’s tourism sector is still facing barriers.
He bemoaned the ministry’s budget allocation of N$402 million, of which N$337.8 million will go towards the operational budget, while N$64.2 million is set aside for the development budget.
“The Namibian tourism sector is the only sector that grew in this time of economic turmoil while other sectors contracted. This year, we have truly seen that tourism is an engine for economic growth. It has been placed at the centre stage of the road towards true economic independence through job creation, empowerment and poverty alleviation as outlined in the Fifth National Development Plan,” he said.
He commended the country’s conservation success, but expressed concern about the challenges that it has brought in the form of Human/Wildlife Conflict (HWC).
“Over the years, many players joined the conservation arena, from individuals, rural communities, civil society and more. They had one aim to conserve wildlife and open the doors to community empowerment and transformation through sustainable wildlife management.
“This increase in wildlife numbers and the increase in the human population led to serious conflict. Both need functional ecosystems and space. This led to competition for the same diminishing natural resource and ecosystem services resulting in HWC.”
In his budget motivation speech, Shifeta said N$178.6 million will go towards wildlife and protected area management aimed at establishing and implementing measures and strategies for the protection and conservation of flora and fauna.
In 2017, 32 rhinos were poached compared to 61 during 2016, while 22 elephants were killed in 2017 compared to 101 in 2016.
In his view, there is need for more investment in social responsibility projects sponsored by the businesses operating in communities.
“The Ministry of Environment and Tourism is inundated with complaints from some communities who feel unfairly treated by the tour and lodge operators especially those operating in conservancies. We have a responsibility to help those that are less fortunate and contribute to the common good of our nation,” he said.