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She was one of the first graduates in tourism at the University of Namibia, achieving a BA degree (Tourism) in 2002. The only one of that first group to be successful, Rebekka Hidulika, majored in geography and area studies. She is now back home in Namibia with much more experience and clarity on what she wants from life.
Every step of her life, which started in northern Namibia, was an adventure in itself, bringing her closer to her goal of being independent and doing something worthwhile. Her brainchild, Wanderzone Tours, was launched in Windhoek on 15 March 2006. Gideon Shilongo, former CEO of the Namibia Tourism Board, who did the honours at the launch, was suitably impressed by this student who came back to Namibia to play a role in the tourism sector.
Rebekka’s exposure to the practical side of tourism started while she studied at UNAM. At the same time she worked part-time for the Tourism Division of the City of Windhoek at the Information Kiosk in Post Street Mall and in the information booth at the bus terminal in Independence Avenue. In April 2003 she decided to see the world and travelled to the UK on a student visa. Three months of selling cruises for a travel agency in Essex opened the door to her first tourism job on a ferry. “This experience gave me a good idea of what the tourism industry was about. Over a period of 18 months I worked in every section, from housekeeping to tending at the bar, reservations and client service.”
It also enabled her to apply for a job on the big cruise ships operating in the Mediterranean. “As a sales consultant in a team of ten, we were nine different nationalities and had to deal with tourists from everywhere.” Rebekka soon became a promotional advisor, selling tours and excursions to the passengers and then accompanying the groups on shore. “As a tour guide you are fully responsible for your passengers, even though you only take over once the excursion on land begins. If they have complaints, you have to sort them out.”
Rebekka says that by the time she decided to come back to Namibia in 2005, she had gained valuable experience on how to handle even the most demanding clients, deal with foreign tour guides and become well versed in how to sell a product. The challenge back home was deciding what area of tourism to venture into. Where would she be able to apply her knowledge and experience best? In her student years as a freelancer in Windhoek, she often accompanied city tours and gained experience in that field. Back from Europe after much exposure, she felt confident that she would be able to offer city tours to satisfy tourists in such a way that local tour operators would trust her with their clients. “I wanted to put my own ideas into practice.”
She started Wanderzone Tours with her savings, assistance from family and support from people in the industry. Although she didn’t always receive positive reaction for her plans, mostly because there are already several companies offering city tours, Rebekka knew that she had the right product and would be able to present it in the correct way for foreign travellers.
Among several interesting angles of her tours are ‘bar hopping’ to compare wine tasting at the Wine Bar in Windhoek to traditional dancing at Club Thriller and visiting a night club in Katutura. Although she doesn’t want to give her secrets away, Rebekka is confident that her historical and cultural tours in the city and the day tours to Okapuka and Düsternbrook will satisfy the most discerning customer.
Her objective is to give a special insight not only into what the city and its people look like, but to tell her where it all comes from and who the people are that make this melting pot of cultures.
This article appeared in the April ‘06 edition of Travel News Namibia.