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UNWTO visits Namibia, first call to an African Member State since start of pandemic

Zurab Pololikashvili, the secretary-general of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), has paid the first visit to an African Member State since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The three-day official visit to Namibia reaffirms UNWTO’s commitment to the continent and features a series of high-level talks aimed at strengthening existing partnerships and looking to a sustainable, resilient future.

As the United Nations specialized agency for tourism, UNWTO has been actively guiding the sector’s recovery and restart from the unprecedented crisis. To reflect the new challenges, it has worked directly with its the African Member States, including Namibia, to adapt the 2030 Agenda for Africa: Tourism for Inclusive Growth, the landmark roadmap for the responsible growth of tourism across the continent. The official visit offered a first chance to follow up on virtual meetings and advance the preparations for the restart of a sector upon which millions of African livelihoods depend.

Pololikashvili met with Hage G. Geingob, President of the Republic of Namibia, for talks on realizing the potential of tourism to drive sustainable development, including for youth, women, and rural communities.

In addition, the Secretary-General commended the head of state for his leadership, particularly with regards to the international tourism revival initiative, which includes the key health and safety protocols drawn up by UNWTO. Alongside this, a meeting with Vice President, Nangolo Mbumba allowed the UNWTO leadership further opportunity to express support for the African Member States as they use tourism to recover and grow.

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Additionally, the UNWTO delegation met with Pohamba Shifeta, MP, Minister of Environment, Forestry, and Tourism to identify ways of growing the country’s tourism sector, including a greater focus on gastronomy tourism, rural and community-based tourism.

“UNWTO is committed to working closely with our African Member States to realize the potential of tourism to help societies recover from the effects of the pandemic and enjoy long-term sustainable growth,” the secretary-general said. “The UNWTO Agenda for Africa maps our collective way forward, and I am pleased to see first-hand the commitment shown by the Government of Namibia to support tourism at this vital time and embrace the sector as a driver of positive change for all.”

Highlighting UNWTO’s determination to lead by example, show travel is safe, and is active on the ground when conditions are right, the delegation visited several of Namibia’s leading tourist sites. These included the Namib Sand Sea, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is ready to welcome tourists again, and also historical Swakopmund and the up-and-coming Walvis Bay tourist destination. As well, Secretary-General Pololikashvili met with Neville Andre, governor of the Erongo Region of Namibia, to offer UNWTO’s strongest support for local tourism, including businesses.

Additionally, the Namibia Tourism Expo provided an opportunity for UNWTO to engage with public and private sector leaders from across the region and sent a clear message to the world that Namibia, “The Land of the Brave” is open and ready to welcome tourists again.

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