Ecotourism – a contradiction in terms?June 8, 2012
Leopards roam the north of NamibiaJune 13, 2012
BY JANA-MARI SMITH
Whether or not Namibia hosts the Adventure Travel summit next year, our country has already left its stamp on this growing industry.
According to Shannon Stowell, president of the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA), the Namibian delegation’s megawatt presence at last year’s summit in Mexico left no doubt that Namibia was in the process of engraving itself in the DNA of the adventure-travel industry – to borrow a remark made by Stowell this morning at a presentation aimed at the tourism industry. “You’ve gotten into our heads,” Stowell assured all those present.
Stowell, who is in Namibia at the personal invitation of Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, Minister of Environment and Tourism, told travel-industry insiders today that surveys show that adventure tourism is growing at nearly triple the rate of general tourism. Current figures indicate an annual market growth of 17 per cent. And while the adventure-tourism market is built on trust and personal relationships, there is room for new destination markets. Since Namibia’s appearance at the summit last year, buyers have been taking note. “Namibia is a breath of fresh air for us.”
What are adventure tourists looking for? While the definitions can border on the grey, the main three pillars are seen as a need for activities, a connection with nature, and an interaction with local culture. What adventure tourists hunger for, overall, is ‘authenticity’. In terms of interacting with culture, Stowell warned, “You don’t want a situation where it feels like you’re at a petting zoo. That is the kiss of death”. For Namibia, this is good news.
Namibia’s groundbreaking and globally praised conservancy programme means that much of the land is in the hands of indigenous people, presenting a unique opportunity for adventure travellers and Namibian operators. “This is where conservancies are so great,” Stowell said. He added that for ATTA members, destinations that foster ‘responsible tourism’ and put value on conservation and the protection of culture have a ‘super powerful’ attraction. With Stowell’s message to operators this morning came a warning, however.
He said the industry should know what its target market is, and not try to offer a product it cannot produce. For those who think they have the right product for the adventure tourism market, Stowell gave a few tips, and some do’s and don’t’s. Forge relationships with potential clients, but don’t oversell, and make sure your product matches your buyer’s expectations. Tell a unique story to pique interest.
Direct engagement with a small, select clientele will get you places, whereas poorly managed mass marketing will land you in the trash can. Information is key, such as providing bios on your guides and offering familiarisation trips to potential clients. Namibia’s approach at the Mexico summit last year was ‘one of the best approaches ever’, and guaranteed that the country was noticed. Now it is up to the industry to ensure that they tell a story that never gets boring.