Tourism is everybody's business

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A QUICK search for the definition of the word tourism gives the following: the commercial organisation and operation of holidays and visits to places of interest.

However, if you delve deeper, you will realise that tourism goes far beyond visiting sites and enjoying a great holiday.

The industry has so many different touch points, such as township tours, adventure activities, transportation services and cultural cuisines which genuinely makes it everybody’s business.

Over the past few years, I have become quite appreciative of the significant role this sector plays in the country.

Quite recently, I had two experiences that made me appreciate the important role the industry plays, and why it is everybody’s business to safeguard it. My first experience was when I travelled to Africa’s Travel Indaba, one of the most significant tourism marketing events on the African calendar, and one of the top three ‘must visit’ events of its kind on the global calendar.

The Africa Travel Indaba has been hosted in Durban for several years, and has ultimately contributed meaningfully to the development of the KwaZulu-Natal province. For instance, the province intends growing tourism’s contribution to its economy to reach between R65 billion and R98 billion in the near future, which would result in the generation of not less than 183 000 job opportunities for its people.

Such figures showcase the possibilities that exist within the sector, and how so many more people can benefit from it.

One example that provided excellent employment opportunities for many youth in Durban was Uber, which is the most recognised ride-sharing alternative to traditional taxis. During my trip, I decided to only make use of Uber as an alternative to traditional taxis.

What came out quite strongly was how many young people who were previously unemployed or are studying, earn an additional income by being Uber drivers for tourists and locals alike.

For instance, one of the drivers I chatted to during one of my rides told me that he does this as a side-job, even though he has full-time employment.

He said during the indaba, he makes an average of R6 000 per week, and can sometimes earn more on busier days. He excitedly told me that the beauty about Uber for him is that he can do it whenever he needs extra cash, and does not need to own the car he drives as there are people who hire their vehicles out.

This alone got me thinking of the opportunity that our youth in Namibia could benefit from, by looking at the alternative of Uber in Namibia, which is Lefa; a shuttle-requesting application that connects drivers and passengers. This could be one opportunity for our youth to not only get an income for themselves, but also partake in the tourism sector.

My second experience was on a recent trip to Swakopmund. Having visited the coast so many times, this time around, I decided to take on a township tour to understand the impact of cultural tourism on the sector.

So, one afternoon, a representative from Hafeni Cultural Township Tours came to pick me up with six other guests for one of their cultural tours. The trip started at the local market at Mondesa, where we got to experience how the local entrepreneurs survive by selling dried fish, mopane worms, beans and many other cultural delicacies.

The guests I was with were impressed with the tenacity and drive these entrepreneurs had, with some of them purchasing some goods to take along.

The experience that stood out, however, was our visit to an Ovaherero home, which also includes a kindergarten. During our visit, we got to understand the history of the Ovaherero culture, including how the dress code came about. Most importantly was the detail that our tour guide, Jonas, went into, which made it a pleasure to understand the history of one of Namibia’s ethnic groups better.

At the establishment, some of the tourists bought souvenirs that were on sale to raise revenue for the maintenance of the kindergarten.

During these two instances, I got a deeper appreciation of why tourism is truly everybody’s business. Aside from the international tourists we receive, we as domestic travellers owe it to ourselves to explore different places, whether regionally or locally, because through this, we do not only expand our horizons, but we also contribute economically to various sectors within the country.

* Mufaro Njabulo Nesongano is the manager of corporate communications and online media at the Namibia Wildlife Resorts.

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