Namibia is not the only country on the continent where locals don’t have a culture of taking leisure holidays, opting to rather use their vacation time attending to their homesteads in their villages.
South Africans too do they same. Their holidays are spent in their villages – or homelands – as the apartheid colonial regime called the native areas to which it subjected blacks before independence.
And some experts now blame this trend on the colonial legacy that left an entrenched restriction of mobility.
According to a new report on Namibian tourism, black Namibians would rather pack up and drive straight to their place of origin, usually the village where their kith and kin still live, instead of touring this country of contrasting beauties.
“In their vacation time they go ‘up north’ to their villages. There is a need to raise awareness of the preferences of international visitors, since the culture does not exist locally,” says the National Sustainable Tourism Growth and Development Strategy 2016-2026.
But the chief executive officer of South Africa Tourism, Sisa Ntshona, tells New Era Weekend that Namibia’s neighbours across the Orange River do exactly the same.
“You are not alone,” he said. “It’s right across the board. I am one of them, as an example, they say I don’t go on holidays. I go home because I am not from Johannesburg. There is a couple of things involved, one is income.”
“Tourism competes for a share of the wallet – do I buy a cellphone, buy a flat screen or do I go visit a place for the weekend,” stated Ntshona last week in Durban, South Africa.
He noted there is a need for a paradigm shift, as tourism is still seen as a “very elitist thing that is done by the rich people alone”.
“Look at our history, as a continent we have largely been colonised. Through colonisation, mobility was not something that was promoted. South Africa, as an example, we have only been independent for 22 years. But 25 years ago we required permits to move from one region to another in the same country.”
“Therefore the whole history of mobility has always been restricted. These are some of the realities. But once we start re-positioning and know our country the more we will appreciate it and become what I call “tourism ambassadors,” said Ntshona.
During apartheid era Namibia and South Africa had pass laws, which were a form of internal passport system designed to segregate the native population and allocate migrant labour.
Also known as the natives law, pass laws severely limited the movements of black African citizens by requiring them to carry pass books when outside their homelands or designated areas.
Ntshona says the best way to move beyond this legacy is for governments to introduce tourism in school curriculums for learners to draw curiosity at an early age.
Nevertheless, Ntshona notes that there is shift in domestic tourism, where people visit touristic destinations in an area in which they had come to visit friends and relatives. And this trend can only be captured if the World Tourism Organisation’s definition of leisure holiday can be amended to accommodate such activities.
“When we travel we sleep over at friends and relatives instead of hotels. Thereafter, we visit tourism destinations. However, the World Tourism Organisation defines domestic tourism as sleeping overnight at an establishment,” Ntshona says.
“It depends on what do that defines vacation. Therefore me visiting my homeland farm, that’s my form of vacation. So I am exploring the country in a different format because I chose not to sleep in a hotel. We have to look at how we define local tourism,” he explained.
The Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism has acknowledged that there are two key challenges related to national awareness on domestic tourism, although tourism is identified at national level as a priority sector in terms of job creation.
Nevertheless the National Sustainable Tourism Growth and Development Strategy 2016-2026 has also noted other challenges in the development of the tourism sector in Namibia.
The report notes, firstly, that young Namibians are not interested in working in the tourism sector. It also emerged from the Namibia Tourism Human Resources Strategy that there was a poor image of the tourism industry among school leavers.
Further, the report suggests the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, together with Team Destination Namibia, must work together to increase awareness of tourism in the country. This, the report indicates, will result in a wider appreciation of the contribution the tourism sector makes to the economy and job creation while the associated welcoming attitude to tourists will encourage young people to enter the industry within the industry.
“It will also provide communities with a better understanding of the way that the tourism industry operates and the requirements for a successfully business,” the report indicated.