By Jana-Mari Smith
As the year draws to an end, the Namibian tourism community will gather one last time to finish off the year with a final bang. This week, starting on Wednesday (27 November), the annual Hospitality Association of Namibia (HAN) congress, HAN Tourism Trade Forum and gala will take place, bringing together all the role players who this year witnessed some extraordinary successes and challenges.
HAN’s CEO, Gitta Paetzold, explained that 2013 was “an exciting, but also very challenging year for Namibian tourism”. It all started off with the dilemna of unexpected, short-notice cuts of international flights by Air Namibia. As a result, many “stressful hours of meetings, negotiations and attempts to salvage the situation” were endured.
All smoothed out towards the middle of the year – just in time for the tourism industry to dig in its heels for the last stretch of the preparations of the much anticipated 10th annual Adventure Tourism World Summit, with Namibia acting as the first African host.
The ATWS was without a doubt a success, but Gitta underlines the importance of the tourism industry, and Namibia as a whole, not resting on its laurels. She said the successful outcome of the ATWS “holds big promises for the Namibian tourism industry in terms of seeing increased business from new markets from the Americas, Scandinavia, and in particular the adventure and conservation niche markets as key focal areas, where Namibia has made a very good name for itself”. She said that now the trick is to build on that momentum.
And it is this, the potential benefits following the ATWS, that the industry now needs to focus on, Gitta emphasised. As a starting point will be the two day HAN event this week.
The congress is taking place under the theme “Namibia – translating Namibia to the world”. She said this theme was selected in order to “demonstrate the important role that the tourism industry plays in putting Namibia on the global map. It is through tourism marketing and promotion that international communities get to know about a country – which may develop into fostering ties and intensifying contact which may then lead into business development”.
She said that HAN and its members and partners strongly believe that “tourism is everybody’s business” and that it is through the tourism industry that international business relations can be strengthened.
She added that it is through tourism marketing and promotion of the various facets of the tourism products, such as landscape and wildlife, historical and cultural tourism, sports and adventure tourism that a country’s image is shaped to the outside world.
The congress this year will again focus on debate, information sharing and networking. Under the chosen theme, Gitta says it is an important event where much of the focus will be on maintaining and building on the great momentum of international engagement and exposure, harvested via the multitude of international conferences which were hosted in Namibia this year.
What lies ahead for 2014? Gitta says that there is no doubt that the year will present challenges, but that a good start is the DERTOUR Länderspezial at the end of January, which is being organised by the NTB and local operators.
She added that HAN is also keen to “remain engaged with all stakeholders and role-players in the tourism industry, and committed to keep the spirit of national pride and ambition prevail through the “Team Destination Namibia”, which was formed between the private sector, the NTB and MET as the “force” to successfully organise and host an ‘adventure summit never to be forgotten””.
HAN, Gitta said, believes that there are many more such adventurous projects that will demand the full commitment and co-operation of all Namibians to ensure that Namibia “stands out as a shining example of Africa”.
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