Pioneer, conservationists and supreme hotel managers – hospitality association awards its best
Albie van Biljon, Rudi and Marlice van Vuuren, and Karl Heinz and Christelle Oosthuizen walked away with the top tourism awards at last weekend’s Hospitality Association of Namibia (HAN) congress in Swakopmund.
Van Biljon received the association’s Personality of the Year award, the Van Vuurens the Tourism Personalities of the Year, and the Oosthuizens the Hoteliers of the Year.
Van Biljon, a lawyer by profession and an accomplished chef, built Alte Brücke from scratch on a discarded piece of land near the Swakop river mouth shortly after Independence at a time when small self-catering establishments were almost unheard of. Over the years, his pioneering spirit lead him to expand Alte Brücke several times, turning it into one of Swakop’s favourite places to stay.
The hospitality association honoured Van Biljon for his selfless dedication to the industry with its longest-running award. The HAN Personality of the Year award was instituted by Mr Johnnie Hamman in 1992 to give recognition to individuals who has served the entire tourism industry.
In the prelude to the award, the association stated “Tonight, we want to award the HAN Personality of the Year award to a person who demonstrated courage in tackling new projects, always committed to stand for the cause of tourism development. He had the vision to expand into new forms of accommodation, and in time, groomed his team, family and son to carry on and build on the strong foundations he built. Under his leadership, the coastal group gained strength and prominence in this region, and his calmness and wisdom still serves as encouragement and foundation of this group and HAN as a whole.”
The Van Vuuren couple received one of the newer HAN awards, specifically recognising their immeasurable contribution to Namibia’s international image through the conservation work done by the N/a’an ku sê Foundation. “The success of Namibia’s tourism industry depends on the vision, commitment, innovation, passion, dedication and leadership of individuals, who have assigned themselves to ensure that the world out there learns of and comes to enjoy the wonderful diversity our beautiful country has to offer,” the association stated.
Not only is the couple famous for their relentless pursuit of conservation that makes a difference, they have expanded into other areas of accommodation, rehabilitation of former farmland, and education to a keen and growing corps of volunteers. After taking over Allen Walkden Davis’ Neuras vineyard on the edge of the Namib, the couple has expanded it to a proper wine estate, while tying the rest of the land into the N/a’an ku sê Foundation’s broader conservation work.
In the prelude to this award, HAN said “True to the spirit that tourism is everyone’s business and everything is linked to tourism, – conservation, promotion of culture and heritage, marketing and international exposure and the development of a high-class gourmet experience, not only in terms of food, but wine and spirits, have all been part of their daily work, apart from growing an accommodation portfolio that includes a boutique hotel, a lodge with animal sanctuary and a serenity place that allows access into one of Namibia’s most barren areas in the South.”
For the Hotelier of the Year award, the hospitality association receives nominations from tour operators, agents and tour guides indicating the close relationship between the providers of tourism services and the users. Karl Heinz and Christelle Oosthuizen were overwhelmingly voted as the best for their service excellence and their willingness always to go the extra mile for their clients.
“Great hoteliers are people who respond fast to enquiries, are always available for information needed by agents and operators, willing to accommodate special wishes of operators, agents and guests, show flexibility, go the extra mile and provide excellent service,” stated the association.
“This couple has teamed up not only as perfect hosts at one of Namibia’s landmark establishments in the South, Sossuvlei Lodge, but effectively manage and represent Taleni Africa Tourism Holdings, put on award-winning marketing displays at international trade fairs and are always willing to give prominent input on tourism events, – a true jewel of the “tourism think tank group!”
Images of Albie van Biljon, and Karl Heinz and Christelle Oosthuizen, courtesy of the Algemeine Zeitung.