NWR: Setting new standards for Namibian tourism

By Cover Feature
July 2015
Travel and Tourism

1. What is the NWR’s mandate?

Namibia Wildlife Resorts is a State owned enterprise, mandated to run the tourism facilities within the protected areas of Namibia. Its only shareholder is the Government of the Republic of Namibia and it therefore belongs to the Namibian people. The company was created through an Act of Parliament, the Namibia Wildlife Resorts Act No.3 of 1998.

With regards to lodging, NWR offers three different collections within Namibia’s protected areas among 20 different camps and resorts;

1. Eco-Collection:

Exclusive accommodation experiences in the heart of Namibia’s national parks; eg. Dolomite, Sossus Dune Lodge and Onkoshi.

2. Classic Collection:

A variety of accommodation options from serviced chalets and standard hotel rooms to basic camp sites paired with a broad range of tour options and facilities; eg. Okaukuejo, Halali and Namutoni.

3. Adventure & Camping:

Campsites and cabins for the rugged traveller that appreciates ‘close to nature’ experiences. Eg. Naukluft, Sesriem and Olifantrus.

2. How has the NWR fared, since its inception, in the attainment of this mandate?

If one reflects back to the establishment of NWR to where it is now, I would say we have done exceptionally well. To give you a better insight, let me give you a brief history of the company. During the pre-independence, the current camps/resorts where located in protected areas and were run by the administration of the day through the Department of Nature Conservation.

Then post-independence, the resorts fell under the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and were run by the Directorate of Tourism. In 1999, Namibia Wildlife Resorts became operational and already during 1999 – 2005 NWR systematically accumulated losses and the product andservice deteriorated to an extent that some camps/resorts no longer qualified for registration by the Namibia Tourism Board.

During 2006 – 2009 a three-year Turnaround Strategy was formulated which aimed at improving the product of the company to provide reliability and a high quality product and service and to improve the financial outlook of the company. The following camps were redeveloped (Okaukuejo, Namutoni and Halali) and renovated in time for the Etosha Centenary celebrations in 2007.

Sesriem campsite and an entirely new Sossus Dune Lodge was built. /Ai-/Ais and Waterberg were also redeveloped. Then in 2010, the Shareholder committed investment financing for six more of the NWR facilities, over a three year budgeting cycle: Torra Bay, Hobas, Popa Falls, Naukluft, Hardap and Gross Barmen. I am pleased to say all these camps/resorts are now operational aside from Hardap of which we will open later this year.

When it comes to achievements there have been a number of them though here are some critical ones:

• The realisation of key strategic objectives set out in our Break Through Strategy such as Business Growth and Image enhancement.
• The filling in of key management positions including my own appointment as Managing Director has stabilised the company which was rudderless for a while. This I believe is one of the reasons we have greatly improved on our service delivery.
• The re-launching of camps/resorts that had been closed for some time, which means that we are able to service a variety of market segments with a concomitant increase in our revenue.
• The winning of key awards in Africa and in Europe for our quality and service – although I must add that quality service is still an ongoing challenge we are pre-occupied with.

3. What steps has the institution taken to ensure that its staff is adequately trained to carry out this mandate?

Through our Breakthrough Strategy, training of our staff and improving the work environment were one of the key deliverables. Over the past two years, we have been having in-house training of our staff members as a means of passing on the institutional knowledge to new employees and to re-orient old staff. Thus far we have seen this to be the best method as many people you might be aware that, in Tourism, experience is a huge aspect to the success of any organisation.

Furthermore, one of my key management initiatives have been the holding quarterly strategy retreats as a way to address our shortcomings. At these retreats the board, functional managers, resort managers and important stakeholders such as NTB come together to review progress and chart theway forward in an open transparent manner. There are no holy cows at those retreats and it has added greatly to building a cohesive team which is focused on key strategic deliverables such as quality service and profitability.

4. NWR held an initiative that gave locals and SADC residents a hefty discount on all its resorts for one month earlier this year.

4.1 What was the purpose of this initiative?

Through these specials we aim to encourage our domestic market to travel and experience the beauty of Namibia. We certainly made the calculations to ensure that we are able to cover our basic costs and also ensure that we give an opportunity for many of our local tourists to travel and experience Namibia. We know that once the travel bug hits you there is no going back so we need to break the barrier of perception (that travel to resorts is for foreign tourists) and get Africans to travel.

4.2 How successful was it?

The specials were very successful – many Namibians and SADC residents have opened their eyes to the beauty of this country. It has also enabled us to have high occupancy at many of our camps/resorts that generally have lowoccupancy at that period of the year due to it being low season for foreign travellers.

5. What was the total revenue of the NWR’s 19 resorts over the last financial year?

NWR’s balance sheet is growing and is close to a billion Namibian Dollars and on the back of that we also have a growing revenue which is in excess of a 100 Million Dollars.

6. Would you say the NWR has done enough to promote tourism to the locals in the same vein as the international visitors?

I would say we certainly have done a lot. When one looks at the efforts that we as a company do, such as taking part in local Tourism related activities such as the Tourism Expo, Ongwediva Annual trade Fair and Windhoek Show we do our part to sensitise the public on our establishments. Though I would be the first to admit that due to not being well resourced we are not in a position to always do what we would love to do. On the local front we also introduced a discounted card called NamLeisure. Last year we introduced two new cards in addition to the original NamLeisure card that has been on the market for the past year. The two new cards are NamLeisure Plus, which is doing very well amongst our couples. The family is slowly picking up as customers who are planning their December holidays are seeing the need to have a NamLeisure Family in order to enjoy huge savings on their accommodation. We lookforward to the demand picking up as we head towards the holiday season.

7. What partnerships does the NWR have with external stakeholders (foreign) to attain its mandate?

In terms of partnership we tend to utilise a local company within a key market to help us further our product awareness. For instance in China and America, we are working with companies that are directly marketing NWR on our behalf. Through such initiatives we have begun to see an increase of tourists from these markets. We also maintain an office in Cape Town to service the South African market and are presently working with Air Namibia to establish an office presence at their Luanda office to service the growing Angolan market.

8. Where would you like to steer the NWR during your tenure as the Managing Director?

There is mainly one thing that I would want to see occur during my tenure as the Managing Director. I would want us to become profitable within the next three years and to be operationally sound in all aspects of our business.

9. Are there any other remarks or comments you would like to impart to our readers, particularly in terms of the institution’s operations as well as its future prospects?

Watch this space – we have a number of initiatives that will increase the footprint and quality of offerings of NWR.