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Self-catering accommodation in Namibia’s capital Windhoek, Swakopmund and rural towns has come a long way from the cheap, substandard, backyard granny flats and old, poorly maintained holiday flats offered to self-caterers until not so long ago.
Some of the 307 self-catering establishments registered with the Namibia Tourism Board are on a par with middle and even upmarket hotels and lodges in terms of facilities, decor and location. These establishments cater for a different sector of the tourism market. They provide a varied product and are steadily becoming a sought-after option for the increasing numbers of regional travellers, self-drive tourists and families on holiday.
The variety of self-catering accommodation in and around Windhoek is astounding. Luxurious apartments in the city centre, chalets in the bushveld bordering the city and individually decorated bachelor’s and two- and three-bedroom units in garden settings with swimming pools, shady trees and braai facilities in the suburbs are available at affordable prices.
Value for money
The key to success, according to a seasoned proprietor in Windhoek, is to provide value-for-money facilities – everything that a guest would have at home and better – comfort, safety, quality furnishings, beautiful surroundings, good-quality linen, a well-equipped kitchen and more often than not a well-stocked fridge.
Some of the upmarket apartments even have dishwashers. Satellite TV with a variety of channels, air-conditioning, telephone and Internet connection and all kinds of electrical appliances such as microwave ovens, snackwiches, toasters, coffee machines, washing machines and tumble dryers are available in the more expensive establishments.
Owners of luxury facilities with rooms that look as if they come straight out of interior-design magazines and have fridges stocked with sparkling wine argue that they provide such luxury at affordable prices to cater for local travellers, businessmen and self-drive tourists with upmarket expectations. This section in the market has increased in recent years to provide for the growing demand.
Self-catering means exactly that – guests cater for their own needs in terms of food and beverages. This aspect of the product enables proprietors to provide cheaper accommodation compared to traditional full-board facilities. The top-of-the-range self-catering establishments interviewed for this report, however, either have a restaurant on site or close by, and provide breakfast baskets, meal packs and braai packs or a delivery service. Some offer private braai facilities and even provide a shopping service for regular guests.
The diversity in appearance of establishments and what they offer their guests, where they are situated and in what their price range is, sometimes apply to one development. One of the oldest and best known, the Swakopmund Bungalows, offer units ranging from chalets with the most basic amenities, to better-equipped units.
In the resorts of the state-owned parks run by the NWR, the variety is equally diverse, catering for budget and middle-of-the-range accommodation. Private establishments often include separate chalets in different price categories, with shared facilities such as a swimming pool and outside cooking amenities. They sometimes even provide camping sites.
According to an executive member of the Hospitality Association of Namibia, HAN, the self-catering sector is still in a developmental phase. Although registered by NTB in a separate category, the product is so varied in quality and content that it is difficult to market and control.
Of HAN’s 327 full members, only eight are self-catering establishments. Some are members of the B&B Association of Namibia. The problem, according to some operators, when selling this product is that they are not graded and it is difficult to establish an expected standard.
Some tour operators, mainly for self-drive travellers, inspect the establishments they intend using, to ensure that the standards of the facilities are similar throughout. In the coastal towns, self-catering facilities are mainly targeted at local and regional visitors. A large percentage of privately owned flats and houses offered by agents were only recently required to register with the NTB.
This article appeared in the May/June ‘06 edition of Travel News Namibia.