Although Namibia is one of the driest countries in the world, it is optimising on one of its most arid but scenic regions – Karas. The southern part of Namibia, which is the driest part of Namibia, offers some of the most scenic tourism opportunities to visitors. The Ministry and Environment and Tourism and its partners are doing everything in their power to optimise on all opportunities that could improve facilities in that area.

One of the recent activities that the ministry together with the support of the United Nations Development Project (UNDP) and the Strengthening the Protected Areas Network (SPAN) undertook was the upgrading of facilities at the main view point of the Fish River Canyon.

Minister of Environment and Tourism, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, who launched the viewpoint, said the ancient canyon among the largest in the world, draws hundreds of thousands of tourists annually and has the potential to increase visitor numbers, if facilities are improved.

She encouraged businesses to invest in accommodation facilities in the area.

“These accommodation establishments provide luxury and comfort for visitors keen on seeing the south’s many attractions, while providing employment and generating income in the Karas Region,” Nandi-Ndaitwah said.

She revealed that a recently held employment summit identified the tourism sector as a possible job-creating sector.

“I don’t want tourism to only grow the eco-nomy without creating jobs. I also want it to be accompanied by some jobs,” Nandi-Ndaitwah said.

Tourism is among the fastest growing economic sectors in the country, surpassing sectors such as agriculture.

The Ai Ais Hot Springs Game Park attracts more than 60 000 visitors per year and generates the third largest income through park entry fees to the State after Etosha National Park and the Namib Naukluft Park.

Between April 2009 and March 2010, the gate revenue from Hobas Gate totalled nearly N$4 million.

The Ai Ais Hot Springs Game Park, which covers 4 360 square kilometres, has a rugged and beautiful scenery with diverse flora containing elements of both the Succulent Karoo and Nama Karoo biomes.

The western rim of the canyon with several viewpoints affords visitors stunning views, especially dramatic in the early morning and late afternoon light.

The upgraded viewpoint includes an enlarged and raised viewing platform with multiple viewpoints, environmentally friendly toilets with a view of the canyon and high quality information display about the canyon and the park.

Meanwhile, the UNDP Resident Coordinator and the UNDP Resident Representative, Kari Egge, in a speech delivered on her behalf, affirmed their support to improve national capacities for the delivery of critical services that are essential to the attainment of the eight Millennium Development Goals.

Egge said the launch of the viewpoint calls on all to work collaboratively and constructively together, providing mutual support to one another while achieving environmental sustainability.

“Environmental sustainability is not, how-ever, the end goal. Rather, it is a means to help us achieve the end goal reflected in Namibia’s Vision 2030 and the MDGs,” Egge said.

Both national and international goals aim at improving livelihoods, improved quality of life for all Namibians, poverty alleviation and securing environmental conservation and sustainability.

Karas Regional Governor, David Boois, chiefs and members as well as representatives of the South African Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) attended the event.

The Ai Ais Hot Springs Game Park, forms part of the Ai Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park.