World Tourism Day has been celebrated every year since 27 September 1980 to raise awareness on the importance of tourism in the social, cultural, political, and economic aspects. The theme for this year "Tourism and Rural Development" does not only encourage and celebrate the unique role played by tourism but it also recognizes the huge role that this sector plays in rural development.
Tourism is one of the worst hit sectors by the Covid-19 pandemic. The novel coronavirus brought the whole world into a sudden lockdown state, followed by travel restrictions and border closures, which impacted the sector and the people who depend on tourism for their livelihoods. In 2020, World Tourism Day celebrates the sector's importance for those communities that would otherwise be left behind. According to the United Nations “for many rural communities, tourism means opportunity. It provides jobs and economic empowerment, including for women and youth. Tourism gives rural communities the ability to protect and promote their natural surroundings, as well as their culture and heritage. In doing so, it allows tourists to enjoy unique experiences.” In developing countries tourism is a major driver for economic development in rural areas. In Namibia, tourism provides direct income to rural communal communities through employment.
For decades, conservation and development organizations have worked with communities to develop nature-based tourism, helping prevent unique landscapes from conversion to agriculture and urban development. In Namibia, there are 61 joint-venture tourism agreements with enterprises employing 1,174 full time and 50 part time staff. The income from joint-venture tourism in communal conservancies has helped to transform lives of rural Namibians. This sector is dependent on the wise management of natural resources and community game guards within the conservancies play a major role in ensuring the conservation of natural resources.
The Nature Tourism-Markets Voices video shows the importance of conservation and sustainable tourism for communities who depend on nature and conservation for their livelihoods. It also speaks about how sustainable tourism and conservation are intertwined and how the Covid-19 pandemic is affecting the lives of local people.
Despite Covid-19 and its impact on tourism, conservation continues in Namibia’s communal conservancies. Namibians are ready to welcome tourists back in the country with borders now open to tourists under the tourism revival initiative which was launched the Minister of Environment, Forestry, and Tourism, Hon. Pohamba Shifeta. Visit the Conservation Tourism website to explore more places in communal conservancies that you can visit, activities you can do and how you can contribute to conservation within these areas.
The Covid-19 pandemic represents an opportunity to rethink the future for tourism. We urgently need to find innovative solutions, including creating alternative sources of income, and ensure that nature tourism is part of economic recovery packages.