I’ve never thoroughly been sold on tourism being a proper industry for a developing economy. Tourists are fickle, they aren’t reliable in the long term, and quite often, they’re cheap bastards. I fleshed out a great number of these issues in regards to Croatia here and here. While those articles dealt to a large degree with beach tourism, they can also be applied to many other types as well where the tourism has a flash in the pan factor which can explode and then quickly burn out.
That being said, I think it is possible for tourism to exist as a “gateway economy” for a region or nation. It can work to get capital flowing in a place where it hasn’t been and it can work to introduce the world at large to a place which is in turn familiarizes outsiders to the people and their customs. While this can be an annoying and childish process at times (the education of daft foreigners), it can also work to bring about the real maverick travelers that want to see the “next… ‘___'” before everyone else does, such as a friend I know who went surfing in Liberia.
I am a bit more tame in my travels and more than happy to let others carve a decently worn path before I get there, although it doesn’t need to be a paved highway by any means. That said, I am really looking forward to somehow visiting Namibia in the near future. No, it’s not because of the 18 hole golf course wrapping around the bottom of the airport runway in the capital, Windhoek (must make for wicked hook shots). It’s also not because Windhoek means, “windy corner” which is probably an apt, albeit rather bland name for a town.
It’s because of photos like this or this and photos of Kolmanskop as it gets eaten up by the Namib Desert. There is an emptiness and beauty to every photo I’ve seen of the country that has the effect of beckoning me to venture forth from my comfortable desk chair. It’s a country of only two million people that’s twice the size of California (where we have about 37 million currently). Just as a side note for the sake of facts and figures, Namibia gained independence from South Africa in 1990 and is the second least inhabited country in the world after Mongolia.
I was re-reminded to the draw of Namibia because of a recent article on The San Francisco Chronicle where they talk about the rise in the tourism industry there and how one can have a very nice cycling trip through the northern region. While cycling isn’t my thing, I do envy their trip. This article is a good read. You should check it out if the least bit curious of the country as it only steps in stereotypes once or twice–“Namibia is safe and clean by African standards.”–which is quite good for an American article on Africa.
Who I don’t envy is Anthony Bourdain; at least on this trip. You can view Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5 of his trip, sampling Namibian cuisine. It’s Part 4 at the 7:00 mark that’s probably the roughest as Bourdain eats the business end of a warthog’s lower intestine.
But all things aside, Bourdain pushes the boundaries of tourism a bit far. His experience does nothing to deter me from wanting to visit the country. Sure, many are probably scared to go as it is vast, deserted, and possibly full or lightly cooked warthog ass, but for me, it sounds just absolutely perfect.
Namibia Beckons