Tourism & Communications

A growing tourist industry

Namibia doesn’t have a warm coastline to attract sun-loving beach-goers. And safari enthusiasts are more commonly drawn to eastern or southern African. A giraffe in a Namibian reserveEven so, Namibia has been growing in popularity as a tourist destination.

In most places, the dry terrain does not support large concentrations of game animals. However, the National Parks at Etosha and in the Caprivi strip are exceptions.

Elsewhere, visitors are attracted by the dramatic scenery of Namibia's landscapes  – such as the spectacular Fish River Canyon – and by the large areas of unspoiled wilderness.

Increasing numbers

In 2008, Namibia received 930,000 visitors (according to the World Tourism Organization). This represented a 50% rise in numbers from over a decade ago.

Small-scale tourism

Generally, tourists come for self-drive holidays or tours in small groups. This allows visitors to enjoy the isolated nature of many attractions.

A number of small camps, lodges and guest farms provide accommodation.

Many small-scale tourist camps are run under the umbrella of the Namibia Community-Based Tourism Association (NACOBTA). This not-for-profit organisation aims to develop tourism which benefits local communities. So for example, when campsites are set up, the community decides how revenues from them will be spent. In addition, local people offer services, such as taking tourists on guided walks or providing items such as firewood.

While tourism is growing steadily and in many cases responsibly, there is still Skeleton Coast Park, by Alastair Rae (originally posted to Flickr as Quiver Trees) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commonsthe danger for it to overwhelm vulnerable groups and sensitive areas. For example, in the remote Kaokoland region to the northwest, vehicle trails left decades ago can still be seen where delicate desert plants and lichens were crushed. And tourism is threatening the culture of the semi-nomadic Himba people who herd goats and cattle in Kaokoland – see People & Culture.

Some would like to see the Himba and their region protected in a similar way to the nomadic cultures of other areas, such as the Maasai Mara Reserve – see Map of Kenya.

Popular and exclusive parks

An unforgiving coastline

Coastline of Skeleton Coast Park, by Joachim Huber [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Local people called the northern coastal region ‘The Land God Made in Anger’. Portuguese sailors named it ‘The Gates of Hell’.

Many enironmentally-delicate areas have national park status in Namibia – see Map. The Etosha National Park is one of the most widely visited, because of its large populations of animals who come to drink at the waterholes.

At the other end of the scale for tourist numbers is the Skeleton Coast Park. The northern section is designated a ‘wilderness area’ for strict conservation. Tourist numbers are tightly controlled and only one company is given a concession to fly visitors into the restricted north.

Along the shore of The Skeleton Coast, the remains of many shipwrecked boats can be seen. They provide evidence about the dangers of the coastline, with its off-shore reefs and thick fogs. There are many stories about shipwrecked sailors trying to walk through the barren Namibian landscape in search of food and water. Once stranded here, men stood little chance of survival. With human remains among the bones left by whale and seal hunters, the shore has earned its name.