What comes first-the commercial viability of a tourism establishment or the needs of tourists? Government’s tourism entity Namibia Wildlife Resorts(NWR) have grappled with this complex question for quite some time and the answer they came up seem to be that–both aspects are pivotal.
The operations of the NWR facilities across the country is a clear testimony that parastatals can run successful operations and still be affordable and favourable to the markets.
Namibian SOEs, NWR included, have over the years been bashed for their poor outputs, despite taxpayers pumping billions into these entities.
In Etosha National Park, a visit to the various NWR run lodging facilities clearly signal how successful NWR is in running its lodging outlets, in most cases even better than the coveted private establishments.
From Namutoni, Onkoshi, Halali, Okaukuejo all the way to the Dolomite camp, the service culture is unheralded. The management of facilities is world-class, backed up by the volumes of tourists that frequent the facilities on a constant basis.
NWR, which was founded in 1998 is government’s vehicle in the tourism sector and is mandated to run tourism facilities within the protected areas of Namibia.
Its only shareholder is the Government of the Republic of Namibia; hence, it belongs to the Namibian people. It thus comes as no surprise that the NWR management has come up with the Leisure Card concept in a bid to intensify its drive to lure more Namibians to tour their country, especially in the protected areas that house wildlife, at affordable rates.
To see for ourselves, some friends and I took a four-day tour through the 22,270 squared-kilometer park and stayed at Halali, Dolomite and Onkoshi to judge for ourselves whether the praises being heaped on NWR are justified.
If I may, it definitely is.
SOEs do not get enough credit when they move in the right direction, rightfully so, because taxpayers have over the years loathed the performance of SOEs and at times even labelled them as parasites that only depend on government.
In NWR’s case, it is evident that the operations are not business as usual.
Although travelling almost 400 kilometers from Namutoni to Dolomite on gravel road might sound like a daunting task, the scenery and abundance of wild animals along the road makes up for the long dusty trek.
If ever there was a metaphor that encapsulates the worth NWR places on service delivery and customer satisfaction, this is undoubtedly it.
Friendly, helpful, well-dressed and professional staff members with some boasting over 30 years of experience in the tourism industry are constantly at the disposal of visitors to ensure that tourists enjoy a smooth and hassle-free stay.
While the NWR facilities are tourist-pleasant, there are numerous activities to keep intrepid tourists entertained during their stay. Namutoni itself played a massive role in the country’s liberation struggle, hence, as much as a visit to the former German fort is seen as a leisure moment by many, it is also educative at the same time due to the rich history attached to Namutoni.
Most tourists-whether domestic or international-will tell you that safety is their greatest concern during any holiday trip. But in Etosha, as well as the NWR-run facilities in the park, safety is guaranteed provided that you follow the stipulated rules at all times.
It can be done
If Namibian SOEs want to turn their economic fortunes around, one way of measuring such success will be how much of taxpayers money is saved to bailout SOEs and instead channelled to providing services to the general populace.
Government has struggled over the years to come up with a clear-cut management plan to curb the wastage of resources amongst SOEs, sadly it continues to lose that battle. Entities such as TransNamib and Air Namibia continue to bleed the national purse despite having the potential to generate millions in revenue for the country.
Namibia is nothing without its money-spinning sector, tourism. Of course the mining and fishing sectors are just as important when it comes to revenue generation, but the global economic challenges took its toll on them.
Tourism is the only sector in which the public and private sector compete on equal footing, without one having to make way for the other. This should be championed across all sectors to ensure broad-based and cross-sectoral national growth.