The concept of “Overtourism
” may be unfamiliar to us in Namibia, but it is something that many people in the world have to content with every day. Venice, for example, has over 60,000 visitors per day, which is more than the number of residents in the core city. That is overtourism
. This video
put out by the WTO explains the concept and provides food for thought:
Tourist arrivals world-wide increased by 137% between 1995 and 2016 (524 million to 1.24 billion visitors), by 212% over the same period in sub-Saharan Africa (12.9 million to 40.48 million) and 440% in Namibia over this period (0.27 million to 1.5 million). While our overall number of tourists is still relatively low given the size of the country, I would suggest that there are some areas where overtourism already occurs.
There are different ways of dealing with potential overtourism. The most simplistic is to limit tourist numbers. Sometimes this is necessary. However, in a country as big and diverse as Namibia, there are usually other, better options. Improved local management and development of appropriate infrastructure can make a huge difference to people’s sense of crowding as well as to reducing the environmental impacts of tourism. And appropriate planning and destination development can spread tourism numbers across the landscape.
Currently Namibia has no specific national spatial plan to guide and manage its tourism development. We have no plan to protect sensitive areas, to improve the management of potential overtourism and to guide the appropriate development of new destinations. Tourism planning is something that is best done well ahead of a potential overtourism situation, because overtourism destroys the very attributes that sells the tourism. This is particularly pertinent in the case of Namibia’s brand of tourism which is based on open landscapes, wildlife and a sense of place.