Task team to develop strategies to promote cultural tourism in the North
“Tourism is the key driver for economic growth and should be promoted as catalyst for rural social and economic development” said the Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Ms Seimy Shidute when she addressed the Northern Tourism Forum at Namibia Lodge 2000 in Oshakati over the previous weekend.
The forum was convened by the Hospitality Association of Namibia (HAN) to discuss opportunities for local establishments and operators to join mainstream tourism to increase the prominence of the four former Owamboland regions, Oshikoto, Ohangwena, Oshana and Omusati.
After the forum, Gitta Paetzold of HAN said these regions are set to enjoy an unprecedented drive in tourism promotion, with particular focus on cultural tourism.
During a networking workshop, the forum appointed a dedicated task team to help identify and develop new tourism products for the regions without losing focus of those operators and establishments that are already part of the tourism industry.
The group under the guidance of Simon Williams of Afri Young Hoteliers comprises three existing HAN members, Ekamuti Town Lodge, Etuna Guest House and Mango Guest House, joined by a photographer and visual & audio producer, a backpacker safari operator and the Ministry of Environment and Tourism’s tourism officer in Ongwediva.
During the forum, presentations were delivered by Deputy Permanent Secretary Shidute, the Marketing Executive of the Namibia Tourism Board, Ms Maureen Posthuma, Air Namibia’s Sales and Marketing Executive, Ms Hellena Kapiya-Nathinge and by representatives from HAN, the Tour & Safari Association and the Federation of Namibian Tourism Associations.
According to the Deputy Permanent Secretary, strategies should ideally include innovative product development with a focus on heritage and culture as unique selling points for tourism with people and places in particular regions. The ministry envisages the development of farm tourism, such as the commercial cultivation of marula trees, adventure tourism such as rafting and fishing along eeshona and waterways and culinary tourism in the form of traditional cuisine festivals.
The workshop delegates agreed that sustainable and multi-faceted development and collaboration in the regions are needed to ensure a success in tourism. This further requires close co-ordination with other key stakeholders such as local and traditional authorities, and regional governments.
During the discussions, it was mentioned that there is still a lack of awareness on the part of mainstream operators of the existing services offered in the regions while emerging operations complained that they lack the insight and knowledge about the demands and expectations of international visitors especially regarding quality, standards and authenticity.
The lack of professional marketing is also seen as a major obstacle. To overcome this impediment, the task team undertook to hold regular meetings and events to collaborate in joint promotions starting with the HAN Tourism Trade Forum in November.