Tourism now out of the doldrums: NTB

By By Francis Mukuzunga
December2010/January 2011
Travel and Tourism
IN 2009, Namibia received 980,000 international tourists at a time when most businesses were experiencing difficulties because of the global recession.

The Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) says the industry survived because Namibia’s natural resource infrastructure was kept intact and all players, including operators and the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, played their part in sustaining the sector.

During the global recession of 2007-2009, the number of visitors from the USA, UK and Europe plummeted when most tourists cancelled their trips. The NTB says the tourism sector remained resilient because of visitors from neighbouring African countries and Asia.

“Tourism is hugely important to the economy of Namibia. It is, therefore, important that we do everything we can to nurture this valuable asset – especially in these difficult times.

In 2009, Namibia received 980,000 international visitors for tourism purposes. This simply means Namibia’s tourism sector remained resilient against all odds,” says the NTB’s Chief Executive Officer, Digu //Noabeb.

The global recession was so bad such that the local carrier, Air Namibia was forced to make alternative changes to its routing structure.

Air Namibia, suspended all flights to the United Kingdom in May 2009 as the London-Gatwick route had been making losses as in-bound flights were not bringing in tourists into the country. Flights to and from Germany, South Africa and other parts of the world were rescheduled in keeping with the insufficient financial resources most visitors had during the period.

The airline said the decision was taken in light of current recession and its effect on aviation worldwide.

“Air Namibia was strained to re-assess its route network and offering to ensure the equilibrium between supply and demand,” said Thea Namases, Acting Managing Director of Air Namibia at the time.

The NTB is currently engaging the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, players in the industry and other stakeholders to look for ways to improve its budget. If the NTB is well equipped financially, //Noabeb says, this could pave way for increased marketing strategies for the country’s tourist destinations.

“We are a not-for-profit company that runs on a commercial basis. Through the strategic leadership of the Board, we are now maximizing operational activities and reducing margins. Our call is then to continue to innovate and come up with new products and ideas that add value to the industry. The NTB remains committed to the development of new products as our responsibility,” //Noabeb says.

The drive to increase the number of tourists could be further strengthened following the new measures to use technology and information systems in tourism. In this respect, the NTB, with the assistance of Millenium Challenge Account (MCA)-Namibia recently launched a new-look and branded website, another opportunity for the industry and its players to market themselves outside the country in order to gain more benefits from tourists and visitors alike who want to come to Namibia.

The new website’s main features include highlights, details and features of the top tourist attractions, including Etosha National Park, Fish River Canyon as well as the main tourist towns of Windhoek and Swakopmund.

It also features various community based tourism projects and various participating business operators and traders, an interactive planning visitor map for those intending to come to Namibia. So far, 150 business operators have signed up on the website and the NTB is calling other players in the industry to come forward.

The website highlights details of participating business operators, accommodation providers or tour operators through a database listing to showcase their offerings and products with further option of boosting their business through click links for potential bookings.

“It is therefore incumbent upon the industry to approach us and update their details. Further, the website is designed to exude Namibia’s brand values being natural, soulful, and rugged and liberating through expansive and visionary photography to speak to the users in the quest of converting them to Namibia as ambassadors and indeed visitors.”

In addition, he says, the NTB will introduce a new strategic business plan in April 2011 that will embrace the concept of e-marketing as Phase 2 of the project. Accordingly, the website would also be integrated with the Management Information System (MIS) that the NTB is currently developing. The MIS would enable the industry to apply for registration online as well as to pay their levies.

The website would also feature useful information for visitors such as festivals and events taking place throughout the year. Special emphasis, he says will be on value-for-money holiday packages being offered by the industry in order to lure more tourists into the country.

“Online marketing remains the most cost-effective way of promoting Namibia as the tourist destination and your business as well. The challenge we are working on together is how to help industry leverage off more features within this website and add value to the planning process for visitors,” //Noabeb explains. PF