Namibia – a place to visit

Namibia, officially the Republic of Namibia, is a country in Southern Africa. Its western border is the Atlantic Ocean; it shares land borders with Zambia and Angola to the north, Botswana to the east and South Africa to the south and east. Although it does not border Zimbabwe, less than 200 metres (660 feet) of the Zambezi River separates the two countries. Namibia gained independence from South Africa on 21 March 1990, following the Namibian War of Independence. Its capital and largest city is Windhoek. Namibia is a member state of the United Nations (UN), the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the African Union (AU) and the Commonwealth of Nations.

The driest country in Sub-Saharan Africa, Namibia has been inhabited since early times by the San, Damara and Nama people. Around the 14th century, immigrating Bantu peoples arrived as part of the Bantu expansion. Since then, the Bantu groups, the largest being the Ovambo, have dominated the population of the country; since the late 19th century, they have constituted a majority.

In 1878, the Cape of Good Hope, then a British colony, annexed the port of Walvis Bay and the offshore Penguin Islands; these became an integral part of the new Union of South Africa at its creation in 1910. In 1884 the German Empire established rule over most of the territory, forming a colony known as German South West Africa. It developed farming and infrastructure. Between 1904 and 1908 it perpetrated a genocide against the Herero and Nama people. German rule ended in 1915 with a defeat by South African forces. In 1920, after the end of World War I, the League of Nations mandated administration of the colony to South Africa. As Mandatory power, South Africa imposed its laws, including racial classifications and rules. From 1948, with the National Party elected to power, this included South Africa applying apartheid to what was then known as South West Africa.

In the later 20th century, uprisings and demands for political representation by native African political activists seeking independence resulted in the UN assuming direct responsibility over the territory in 1966, but South Africa maintained de facto rule. In 1973 the UN recognised the South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO) as the official representative of the Namibian people; the party is dominated by the Ovambo, who are a large plurality in the territory. Following continued guerrilla warfare, South Africa installed an interim administration in Namibia in 1985. Namibia obtained full independence from South Africa in 1990. However, Walvis Bay and the Penguin Islands remained under South African control until 1994.

Namibia has a population of 2.6 million people and a stable multi-party parliamentary democracy. Agriculture, herding, tourism and the mining industry – including mining for gem diamonds, uranium, gold, silver and base metals – form the basis of its economy. The large, arid Namib Desert has resulted in Namibia being overall one of the least densely populated countries in the world.

Tourism in Namibia

Tourism is a major contributor (14.5%) to Namibia’s GDP, creating tens of thousands of jobs (18.2% of all employment) directly or indirectly and servicing over a million tourists per year. The country is a prime destination in Africa and is known for ecotourism, which features Namibia’s extensive wildlife.

There are many lodges and reserves to accommodate ecotourists. Sport and trophy hunting is also a large and growing component of the Namibian economy, accounting for 14% of total tourism in the year 2000, or 19.6 million U.S. dollars, with Namibia boasting numerous species sought after by international sport hunters.

In addition, extreme sports such as sandboarding, skydiving have become popular, and many cities have companies that provide tours. The most visited places include the capital city of Windhoek, Caprivi Strip, Fish River Canyon, Sossusvlei, the Skeleton Coast Park, Sesriem, Etosha Pan and the coastal towns of Swakopmund, Walvis Bay and Lüderitz.

Windhoek plays a very important role in Namibia’s tourism due to its central location and close proximity to Hosea Kutako International Airport. According to The Namibia Tourism Exit Survey, which was produced by the Millennium Challenge Corporation for the Namibian Directorate of Tourism, 56% of all tourists visiting Namibia in 2012–13 visited Windhoek. Many of Namibia’s tourism-related parastatals and governing bodies such as Namibia Wildlife Resorts, Air Namibia and the Namibia Tourism Board as well as Namibia’s tourism-related trade associations such as the Hospitality Association of Namibia are headquartered in Windhoek. There are also a number of notable hotels in Windhoek, such as Windhoek Country Club Resort, and some international hotel chains, such as Avani Hotels and Resorts and Hilton Hotels and Resorts.

Namibia’s primary tourism-related governing body, the Namibia Tourism Board (NTB), was established by an Act of Parliament: the Namibia Tourism Board Act, 2000 (Act 21 of 2000). Its primary objectives are to regulate the tourism industry and to market Namibia as a tourist destination. There are also a number of trade associations that represent the tourism sector in Namibia, such as the Federation of Namibia Tourism Associations (the umbrella body for all tourism associations in Namibia), the Hospitality Association of Namibia, the Association of Namibian Travel Agents, Car Rental Association of Namibia and the Tour and Safari Association of Namibia.

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