Tourism is unquestionably one of this region’s most dynamic economic sectors. This is borne out by the exciting growth of visitors to the region over the past few years, with tourism to Namibia already accounting for over 1 million people a year.
This is not surprising, given the region’s legendary natural spectacles like the Fish River Canyon and the Namib and Kalahari deserts.
Cross border developments such as the upcoming opening of the Mata Mata border post in the east, and the newly proclaimed /Ai-/Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier Park in the south promise to further encourage regional tourism links. The 2010 Soccer World Cup in South Africa is but one example of the potential for attracting international visitors to Karas in this inter-regional way.
Investment rewards for all
Potential for the tourism investor abounds in a country with so many as yet unexploited sites. Hospitality venues, resorts, tour operations and adventure excursions, game farming and hunting, local and ethnic craft manufacture are but a few of many opportunities open to the investor. These enterprises have the power to absorb local workers and improve labour skills – crucial where subsistence-type economic activity is still evident in rural areas and employment opportunities limited. Many incentives to businesses that actively integrate local peoples into tourism and related service industries are available from government.
Namibia’s natural riches are the lifeblood of what is essentially an eco-tourism driven industry. This is recognised by government, who return a sizeable part of all state revenue from tourism in Namibia directly to areas like conservation. The region’s diverse biomes however remain fragile. Uncontrolled vehicle access to ecologically sensitive areas like dunes can destroy millennia old wonders, while careless building of resorts can ruin the unique idyll of open space sought by modern eco-tourists. Ancient herder peoples of this region recognised that no environment could survive overgrazing, continuous hunting or resource-draining human habitation. Its twentieth century inhabitants were often less sensitive. No matter how opportune, all development today needs to be carefully considered.
A well-established industry
For the foreign traveller, the Karas Region already has many well established facilities to boast – from tranquil 5-star hospitality for the connoisseur in one-of-a-kind historic lodges and guest houses, to the rough-it thrills of 4×4 dune or canoe safaris for the young adventure seeker; from nostalgic trips to ghost towns and cultural heritage sites, to pristine photography opportunities and landscapes still largely undisturbed by mankind.