Combining one of Africa’s most progressive economies with expansive deserts, deep canyons and rich wildlife reserves, Namibia truly has something for everyone.
Namibia features one of the most spectacular landscapes that Africa has to offer, home to expansive deserts, towering mountains, rocky valleys and savannas that are littered with some of the rarest wildlife in the world.
While the vastness of the country may be hard to comprehend, Namibia is the perfect escape from a busy life in the western world. In fact, the country has one of the lowest population densities on earth with just 2.9 people per square kilometre.
Despite this, Namibia surprisingly features some of the most vibrant cities on the continent that readily showcase the country’s exciting economic prospects alongside a deep cultural history that together bring unique experiences to travellers.
Tourists who do visit the country are well placed to see all of these sites, owed to the nation’s economic and democratic stability and secure infrastructure networks.
There is a range of alternative ways to explore its extensive plains, and whilst the country continues to offer the continent’s deepest canyon, the world’s oldest desert and the tallest sand dunes on the planet, Namibia will remain ripe for such adventure.
THE BUSINESS END
Home to rich mineral deposits, Namibia has come to be considered by the World Bank as a upper-middle-income country, upheld by political stability and sound economic management.
The national government is attempting to lead by example in the way of economic progression across Africa by placing significant emphasis on incorporating the principles and practices of commercial development in the aim promoting job creation across the country.
This particular emphasis has resulted in tourism becoming a key contributor to Namibia’s growth projections, adding approximately NAD$23.7 billion last year, accounting for 13.8 percent of total national GDP.
Playing a key role in facilitating the rapid rise of this sector is Hospitality Association of Namibia (HAN) – an organisation encompassing more than 400 members across the full spectrum of the national hospitality industry.
“The country’s vibrant tourism sector holds great potential for job creation and skills development, not only in urban areas, but most importantly also at regional and rural level,” says Gitta Paetzold, CEO of HAN.
“With tourism quite literally being everyone’s business, issues addressed by the association very often exceed the narrow tourism promotion sphere to include health, infrastructure, crime, issues on regulation and policy issues affecting tourism and the like.
“Ultimately, the association aims to ensure that the tourism industry in Namibia remains relevant, grows and develops into a key economic pillar, is recognised for the immense value it holds in terms of job creation and economic contribution, all the while making Namibia a destination of choice for both regional and international travellers.”
TOURISM INSIGHTS: HOSPITALITY ASSOCIATION OF NAMIBIA
Founded in 1987 by an initial 16 members, HAN has been crucial in bolstering the country’s tourism industry for more than 30 years.
Representing all industry bodies, from hotels, to guest houses, guest farms, lodges, rest camps, restaurants, conference centres and catering services, HAN readily engages with all hospitality members, helping to tackle issues and further national economic agenda.
With aim of promoting the common interests of its members and enhancing the local hospitality industry, with coverage from the Kunene and Kavango rivers in the north right down to the Oranje in the south, HAN continues to champion this flourishing industry.
Speaking to Outlook Travel Magazine, Paetzold reveals what’s in store for both the organisation and Namibia as a whole in the coming months.
Q&A WITH GITTA PAETZOLD, CEO, HAN
How would you say Hospitality Association of Namibia continues to help develop the country’s national tourism industry?
Gitta Paetzold (GP): Throughout each year, the association communicates with its members via email to ensure that the industry is kept abreast of developments and trends both locally and abroad. Members are also provided with an open channel to express their views and concerns and request HAN’s assistance to take these to authorities, where necessary.
HAN represents the sector on platforms provided by relevant government authorities including the Tourism Ministry’s Tourism Competitive Advisory Board. Further, we provide regular submissions on tourism occupancy statistics to the Bank of Namibia, Statistics Agency and other interested stakeholders, and once a year, aside from our AGM, we also host a National Tourism Congress on topics relevant to the industry.
Furthermore, HAN hosts an annual tourism awards gala, during which outstanding performance and personalities in tourism are recognised for their commitment to growing the industry.
How would you evaluate the tourism sector in Namibia now compared to its condition when the Namibia Tourism Board began?
GP: HAN was instrumental, together with other tourism associations, in formulating the regulations for the Namibia Tourism Board which was established by an Act of Parliament in 2000, 10 years after the country gained independence.
In the years since, the tourism sector and HAN have been in open dialogue that has included consultation, advice and promotion of the tourism sector, both in terms of marketing as a destination in general, and in influencing the development of tourism activities in rural areas.
Further, as a member of the Namibia Employers’ Federation, we have ensured that all occupational health and safety issues, labour matters and other social responsibility concerns are addressed, and that staff are trained, developed and encouraged to make a career in tourism whilst maintaining high standards.
Equally, through strategic partnerships with the Eco Awards Alliance, the Namibian Association of Community Based Tourism Organisations, the Namibian Chamber for the Environment, and the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and the NTB, HAN is a key driver for the promotion of sustainable practices in tourism.
What is in store for Namibia over the rest of 2018 and beyond to continue the good work already commenced and to enhance its reputation as a tourism and business travel hub further in the future?
GP: Apart from the annual HAN Tourism Congress and Gala, the biggest media house, Namibia Media Holdings, hosts the annual Namibia Tourism Expo in May/June every year – a four-day event showcasing the diversity of the sector.
Within specific regions, a number of events are held annually, such as the International Kite Surfing Speed Week in October in the coastal town of Luederitz, and the annual Namib Desert Race in December, one of the harshest 24-hour cycle races across Namibia’s gruelling terrain. Winter sees the Race for Rhino in Damaraland, combining fun and sports with a good cause, namely the preservation and conservation of Namibia’s fauna and flora, and especially our precious rhinos.
In line with the huge growth in tourism across the country, a number of major brands including Hilton Hotels, the Manor Group and Zanier Hotel group have set up shop in Namibia, each launching a number of new prestigious hotels. These, coupled with existing establishments such as the Hoanbib Valley Camp that most recently hosted Prince William, are just a few examples of Namibia’s potential to provide unique, exquisite and exclusive experiences to world travellers.
Meanwhile, gemstone tourism is also on the up as Namibia’s geography and geology is probably one of the most intriguing at global level, with countless experts and scientists already frequenting this country for research. We believe that, if developed correctly, gemstone tourism can become a new niche market for our tourism industry, and one that will offer added benefits to the local community and small miners.
Finally, looking forward, what progress and development are you expecting to see in the coming years, both in regard to HAN as an entity, and the business travel industry in Namibia as a whole?
GP: The potential of the tourism sector is immense for Namibia, and the industry is recognised as one of the four key economic pillars of our economy. It could be a gold mine, but only if it is developed correctly and in consideration of the environmental sustainability principles to which we strongly subscribe.
Growth needs to go hand in hand with distinct destination management and aim for a shift from the bottleneck areas of the national parks and Deadvlei to creating a more diverse tourism package that offers one key multi-faceted tourism product: Namibia – a place that has it all.
From wide open spaces, unspoilt beauty and rich fauna and flora to intriguing history and cultural diversity, coupled with some of the most amazing culinary offerings that include world-renowned beers, wines, gins, and local delicacies, Namibia really does have a lot to offer.
OUT AND ABOUT IN NAMIBIA
In the way of culture, Namibia is completely unique, taking influences from both its colonial history and the 11 different tribes and ethnic groups that occupy the country. The result of this is a truly broad and diverse society, with a range of different art, music, religions found throughout each region.
This culture of acceptance makes the country one of the most tourist-friendly nations across Africa and visiting remote communities such as the semi-nomadic Himba can be a humbling experience for any traveller.
Home to a quarter of the world’s cheetahs and the last of the world’s completely wild black rhino, Namibia also showcases an expansive range of wildlife reserves, parks and lodges that, coupled with its beautiful landscapes, readily draw visitors from all over the world.
Heading into the country’s more populated areas, Swakopmund is a great base from which to explore the Namib Desert and Skeleton Coast, whilst offering unique colonial architecture that in itself is worth seeing.
Meanwhile Windhoek offers a more westernised feel, standing as a modern and well-structured city that can provide those who visit with some respite from the country’s expansive deserts.
John and Penny Group is wholly owned by previously disadvantaged Namibians.
The company owns two foreign subsidiaries, Societe John and Penny Group Congo in Congo Brazaville and John and Penny Group South Africa Pty Limited. Over the years it has grown into a diversiﬁed business with a presence in hotels and lodges, tours, food and catering services.
Among its accommodation offerings is the Ekamuti Town Lodge Ondangwa, situated in the northern part of Ovamboland.
Journeys Namibia is one of the most established lodge management companies across the country, helping to take the strain off lodge owners by taking care of the day to day management.
With a vision of promoting a sustainable tourism industry through the development of sound partnerships, Journey’s Namibia wants to truly make a difference to every visitor’s Namibia experience.
Encompassing the soul and character of Namibia and its people, Joe’s Beer House offers one of a kind experiences to any of its customers that come from far and wide.
Joe’s combines delicious and authentic foods with heart-warming hospitality to leave its customers with the best of memories, feeding the mouth and soul.
With significant investment having been pledged towards upgrading infrastructure within Namibia’s populated areas in recent years, inner city travel is relatively easy, owed to the abundance of both rail and bus transport options available.
However, for those looking to discover the tourism riches that are on offer in all corners of the country, booked tours and buses are one of the most viable options. A number of private bus companies run scheduled long-distance services, such as Intercape Mainliner, whilst Townhoppers and Welwitschia Shuttle offer a similar transport solution in the form of shuttle buses.
Internal flights are also available, largely used by the country’s business travellers. Whilst Namibia’s international airports can be found at Walvis Bay on the west coast and Windhoek, smaller airports are located broadly across the country at Katima Mulilo, Ondangwa, Rundu, Oranjemund and Lüderitz.
Despite this, car hire is widely considered to be the best method of travel for those looking to see it all.
It is recommended that vehicles capable of navigating off road are sought out, as some of the country’s more remote roads are a far cry from tarmacked highways. Equally, for those seeking to really get off the beaten track, it would be wise to travel in a convoy of at least two well equipped vehicles.
“Here amongst the windswept houses of Kolmanskop lies the key to a past long gone, the remains of an era where diamonds sparkled and sustained life along the coast of Namibia” – Kolmanskuppe.com
“Namibia has several thousand shipwrecked vessels strewn across its vast coastline. The Skeleton Coast’s rough seas, roaring winds and strong ocean currents are primarily responsible for many of these beached ships’ fate”
– Namibia Tourism
“The Fish River Canyon in Namibia is (allegedly) the second largest canyon in the world after the Grand Canyon. The immensity of this magnificent landscape is truly breath-taking” – Namibian.org
“The dunes in this area are some of the highest in the world, reaching almost 400 meters, and provide photographic enthusiasts with wonderful images in the beautiful morning and evening light” – Sossusvlei.org