The recent currency roller- coaster, expensive travel visas and fears of terrorism across Europe and the East have left African business and holiday travellers searching locally for their travel, meetings and conference options.
Exotic destinations are becoming a stretch on the purse-strings and a major trend of looking local is apparent. One such destination attracting travellers is Namibia, the close relative of South Africa. The country is fast becoming an appealing option for the leisure and conference markets.
Nicolae Tambrescu, Regional & Domestic Operations & Marketing for Namibia, Africa & Middle East at Namibia Tourism Board, confirms the growth reflected by Namibian Airports Company figures for 2015 when Windhoek airport handled 773 721 passengers and 14 940 aircraft movements. Supporting airlines are Air Namibia, South African Airlines, TAAG Angola, Airlink, Condor, South African Express and British Airways (Comair) that service routes to Johannesburg, Cape Town and Luanda, amongst others in Africa, as well as to Europe through Frankfurt Airport in Germany. Walvis Bay Airport is a second major airport in Namibia, handling over 20 000 aircraft and about 100 000 passengers in 2015, operating daily flights to Windhoek, Johannesburg and Cape Town. Walvis Bay Airport is undergoing a total revamp and is set to be Namibia’s second international airport by the end of 2016. According to Tambrescu, South African arrivals continue to increase at 12-13% annually, reaching over 500 000 in 2015.
But it’s not only South Africans who are realising the value of Namibia. Arrivals from Angola and Zambia account for about 700 000, whilst visitor figures from Germany, France, Italy and the United Kingdom have reached as many as three hundred thousand per annum. Recent reports confirm the arrival of KLM, Qatar and Ethiopia Airlines, confirming the interest of visitors to the country. Tambrescu explains that there is an upsurge in corporate travel from SADC, but there is room for improvement. “It is important to inform the consumers of various types of destinations and activities, tourism campaigns and incentives, through various communication tools, and in the past years we have seen growth and uniformity throughout the year, positive signs for Namibia.”
Dean van Rooyen, general manager at BON Hotel Swakopmund, boasts that Namibia, especially the coastal town of Swakopmund, has much to offer. “Less than an hour’s drive from the Walvis Bay airport, the sand dunes and ocean offer a playground of attractions for corporate and leisure seekers and the historical value draws many tourists from Germany and Europe. With such a variety on offer, Swakop is becoming increasingly popular for conference groups, team-building and our leisure market is growing too. Of course, we also enjoy the big -time Hollywood movie shoots. The exchange rate and unusual locations are huge drawcards for production companies.”
If one has to look at exotic travel options for South Africans on our current exchange rate, we have limited choice for value – perhaps Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia or even Mauritius, but Namibia….now there’s a thought!