Another tourism route in the pipeline
The Namibia Tourism Board: Head of Industry Service, Bonnie Mbidzo revealed to the Economist that another tourism route is being negotiated with the ‘maize triangle towns’ of Grootfontein, Otavi and Tsumeb.
Mbidzo said that together with the already established routes from the Millennium Challenge Account funding and help from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, this new addition will be added to the Okavango Open Africa route, Omulunga Palm route and the Arid Eden Africa route.
The MCA’s five year project ended last year with some of the funds going towards the marketing of three routes at a tune of N$80 million with a 10 year forward looking sustainability plan. Mbidzo said that currently the tourism board is busy coordinating the individual routes with the smaller separate routes such as the Four Rivers route which comprises of the Okavanga Open Africa Route, Caprivi Wetlands Paradise Experience and the Four Corners Experience to set up committees of the whole experience of the Four Rivers Route, Omulanga Palm Route and the Arid Eden Route.
The Kavango Open Africa route destinations that forms part of the Kavango Open Africa route is the longest in existence and has a functioning committee which has managed to bring corporate sponsors on board such as Bank Windhoek.
Chairman of the Kavango Open Africa Route, Mark Paxton, said that the Namibia Toursim Board does not have the competency in managing the routes and that the initial idea was that Open Africa would be kept on board after initial donor funding from the MCA ran out.
Adding on he said Open Africa was consulted by the MCA and the tourism board in establishing the new northern Namibia routes since they have 30 years experience in coordinating 70 routes in South Africa. Paxton said that other businesses in and around Rundu that form part of his 50 member committee are charged a nominal fee of N$600 and this creates a bone of contention when the other resorts from the two routes namely, the Caprivi Wetlands Experience and the Four Corners Experience piggyback on benefits such as marketing brochures without having functional organization in place.
Mbidzo said that the NTB is currently busy meeting with the individual chairpersons of the three northern tourism routes in getting the routes coordinated. “After meeting with the chairpersons and members, feedback will be availed of the challenges the routes are facing allowing for budget allocations to be made,” he said.
“Route maintenance and development are skills lacking in many of the lodge owners,” Mbidzo said, adding that the natural death of the Cape Town-Mata Mata route connecting South Africa’s Northern Cape to Windhoek allowed tourists to travel between the two countries via the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. “With the absence of Open Africa, having done the spider work, there is no coordinated body pushing the individual member causing distension between established routes,” Paxton said.
The northern tourism routes will be launched at an INDABA, one of the larges tourism marketing events on the African calendar in Durban, South Africa.