SADC Business Council Tourism Alliance reacts to Namibia removing 31 countries from its visa-exempt list

The Sossusvlei, a popular Namibian tourist attraction in Namib-Naukluft National Park of Namibia. Picture: Unsplash

The Sossusvlei, a popular Namibian tourist attraction in Namib-Naukluft National Park of Namibia. Picture: Unsplash

Published Jun 4, 2024


The SADC Business Council Tourism Alliance has urged the Namibian Government to reconsider its planned new visa regime, arguing that it was a step backward for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) member state.

This comes after reports that Namibia’s Ministry of Home Affairs, Immigration, Safety and Security (MHAISS) announced that it had authorised the removal of 31 countries from its visa-exempt list.

The council expressed concern over the decision which requires nationals from the affected countries including Japan, Italy, Denmark, Canada, Belgium, France, Switzerland, Portugal, Spain, the United States and the United Kingdom to fill out an online application form, and being issued visas-on-arrival when entering the country.

It is also anticipated that visitors from these countries will need to pay the standard visa-on-arrival fee of NAD1 200 (R1 200/€59/ $64).

According to Travel, the Namibian Government issued a statement revealing plans to remove these countries as they did not offer reciprocal visa requirements to Namibian citizens.

There are no African countries on the list and it is not uncommon for countries to play tit-for-tat when it comes to the issuing of visas.

However, the SADC Business Council Tourism Alliance said that Namibia’s decision could severely hamper the country’s tourism industry and economic growth.

In a statement, the council said that the policy shift contradicted the Namibia Airports Company’s recently launched air access strategy called Air Connect Namibia, aimed at increasing international flights and connectivity.

“The implementation of stricter visa requirements could have a detrimental impact on various sectors of Namibia’s economy, including tourism, hospitality, transportation, and retail, all of which rely heavily on international visitors,” said the council.

Natalia Rosa, Project Lead for the SADC Business Council Tourism Alliance, said that the restrictive visa regime could negatively impact the entire tourism value chain, “It hinders not only leisure travel but also business travel, conferences, events, education, and trade, thereby limiting overall economic growth and development.”

The council noted that several African countries, including those within the SADC, were moving towards more liberal visa policies and Namibia risked falling behind its regional peers and losing its competitive edge as a tourist destination.

“We urge the Namibian government to reconsider these restrictive measures and engage in dialogue with stakeholders to find solutions that balance security concerns with the need for economic growth and regional competitiveness,” said Rosa.

She also said that aligning visa policies with the air access strategy was essential to maximise the benefits of increased flight options and attract a larger influx of travellers.

“Namibia could look to successful examples like Rwanda, which has seen significant growth in its Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions (MICE) tourism sector due to visa liberalisation and investment in infrastructure,” said Rosa.

The council expressed surprise at Namibia’s visa regime U-turn, particularly as the SADC was preparing to pilot its Univisa; and suggested that instead of tightening visa restrictions, Namibia could explore alternative solutions such as implementing more efficient visa processing systems (e.g, e-visas), targeted visa waivers for specific groups, or enhanced security measures at borders.

“All barriers to entry for international visitors must be critically examined and addressed to encourage longer stays, increase spending in the economy, and accelerate the recovery of the tourism sector,” said Rosa.