Namibia has a unique mix of wildlife, spectacular scenery, and diverse cultures. Natural attractions include the Namib Desert, which is the oldest desert in the world; the Fish River Canyon, which is the second-largest canyon in the world after the Grand Canyon; the world-famous sand dunes at Sossusvlei; the Skeleton Coast with its extraordinary landscapes; and Etosha National Park, one of the largest game reserves in Africa. Coupled with its natural beauty, Namibia’s good road infrastructure, potable water, and lower levels of crime than most of its neighboring countries make it an ideal destination for tourists.
According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), travel and tourism contributed approximately 14.7 percent of GDP in Namibia, and 15.4 percent to total employment in 2019. Excluding neighboring African countries, the United States represents Namibia’s third-largest tourist market (behind Germany and the United Kingdom). Many American tourists visit as part of package tours. American game hunters are a growing and important segment for Namibian tourism operators.
Currently, the Namibian tourism industry is recovering from the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 and its associated reduction in global travel hollowed out the tourism industry, causing mass business closures, layoffs, and unsustainable debt. Experts predict tourism industry recovery will be slow with pre-COVID levels of visitors and revenue unlikely to return until 2024.
- Hospitality, restaurant, hotel management and training
- Packaged tour services, especially in niche segments
- Information technology solutions for the hospitality industry
- Specialized equipment for remote (off-grid) lodging.
Firms interested in sending tourists to Namibia should seek partnering opportunities with local operators. Firms may wish to focus on specific niches. Niche tourism opportunities include:
- Wildlife safaris – Etosha National Park and other parks offer world-class safaris with upscale lodging both inside and near the parks.
- Hunting tours – Namibia has a well-developed game and trophy hunting sector.
- Cultural / Educational tours – Namibia is an excellent location for tourists interested in learning about the cultural anthropology of Southern Africa. Tours are available for people interested in learning more about the San, Herero, Himba, Oshiwambo, Nama, Damara, and other Namibian ethnic groups. Some tourists look for educational experiences and want to learn about Namibia’s unique climate and geography (including its two world-famous deserts, the Kalahari and Namib).
- Adventure tours – Many travelers enjoy the unique adventure opportunities (sand boarding, kite surfing, sky diving, quad biking, mountain biking, hiking, camping, etc.) which Namibia offers. There are a number of endurance race events (running, biking, and mixed sports) hosted in Namibia.
- Ecotourism – Increasingly, tourists want to stay at destinations that have minimum impact on (or blend in with the) the environment. Lodging and tour companies are increasingly catering to this market.
Firms interested in developing partnerships should consider attending the annual Namibia Tourism Expo, held in May/June of each year.
Operators (tour/transport companies, hotels, and restaurants) will increasingly need information technology solutions that will allow them to better control costs and understand their customers’ demands. While there are some larger tour operators and lodging companies providing state-of-the-art information technology solutions, the Namibian tourism market is still highly fragmented with many small operators. Most small operators only have a limited Internet presence. Companies that can provide cost-effective internet-based marketing and booking solutions could find willing customers in Namibia.
Growth in the tourism sector is also fueling the development and construction of new lodging in both urban and remote areas. Partnering for construction jobs might be a possibility for U.S. firms, but it will likely be difficult for U.S. firms to win construction contracts as there are many qualified local and South African firms. Chinese construction firms have also penetrated the Namibian construction market in recent years. There are opportunities for firms that can provide specialized eco-friendly equipment and supplies – water and sanitation, energy, hygiene, etc. – for new lodges in remote areas. Existing lodges that are expanding or rehabilitating may also be looking for these types of equipment.