International tourism rankings: How they benefit Namibia

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by Ellanie Smit

Namibia’s recent international acclaim as one of the best destinations in the world will not last forever, role-players in the tourism industry have warned.
Therefore, strategies are needed to address the challenges faced in the sector to maintain its competitive edge.

Several trendy global publications of late have advised international tourists to visit Namibia, ranking it among the top destinations in the world.
However, Namibia’s Director of Tourism and Gaming, Sem Shikongo, says while Namibia has been put on the global map as the “best-kept secret in Africa”, the challenge is to put strategies in place to cash in on that momentum.

“The question is, what are we as Namibia doing to maintain this position and to become the most competitive tourism destination in Africa?”
Shikongo stressed that the international acclaim will not last forever and it should be sustained by addressing challenges such as customer service, value addition, training human resources and even waste management.
“The onus is on the industry to sit and decide on strategies on how to maintain this momentum.”

From here the country must go from strength to strength to become the most competitive industry in Africa, said Shikongo.

Benefits to the industry
The Chief Executive Officer of the Hospitality Association of Namibia, Gitta Paetzold, said international rankings, especially when listed by respected publishing houses such as Wanderlust, Lonely Planet and the New York Times, are extremely valuable. International travellers are influenced more and more by online rankings and reports. Repeatedly featuring among the top destinations will definitely stand Namibia in good stead, especially with travellers who may never have considered Namibia or Southern Africa as a travel destination. According to Paetzold this has very high market value for Namibia, especially in markets where Namibia has not yet achieved high recognition, such as the US, South America and Asia.

“These rankings also serve to reassure the European market, which is still Namibia’s strongest market, that their choice has been spot-on.”
Paetzold said everyone stands to benefit from the acclaim that Namibia is receiving.
She further said that Namibia has an established, loyal market base in central Europe, which should not be forgotten or neglected in all the hype of new market development.

“It is thus important to maintain and nurture existing partnerships and contacts with agents, operators and clients, who have loyally supported and serviced Namibia over the years, making Namibia a travel destination with one of the highest repeat-visitor percentages.”
According to Paetzold these repeat visitors have become Namibia’s ambassadors and it is vital not to disappoint them. With that in mind, the Namibian tourism industry must keeps on developing new products, activities and attractions, while improving on standards and service levels to keep people coming back for more.

She further said that the tourism industry is one of the most competitive industries worldwide, with about 200 different destinations competing for the same global travel market. Paetzold said when considering their annual holidays, international travellers are virtually bombarded with options and special offers. They have a wide variety of options, from internet deals to packages compiled by their local travel agents.

She said when a destination receives high international rankings, it is elevated to the top of the list of options and in most cases travellers seeking new destinations will be guided by positive reviews.

Industry challenges
Paetzold further explained that the private tourism sector could benefit directly from the international acclaim Namibia has been receiving as their products and services will now be in demand and many more people will be prompted to search for their information on the internet.

She stressed that it is therefore important to have an attractive and effective presence on the World Wide Web and added that some Namibian service providers are still lagging behind in this regard.
Paetzold said Namibia should ensure that its international online marketing efforts are of high professional standard because the world trend in marketing is guided by what happens on the World Wide Web.

“We have shining examples of excellent internet presence of some properties and service providers in Namibia, with regular updates, speedy responses to online inquiries and professional guidance and follow-up information provided by some private-sector stakeholders.
“All good intentions and international focus would be wasted if the Namibian tourism industry on the receiving end was not ready to react to increased inquiries, requests for information and reservations.”

According to Paetzold the private sector should either choose to have their marketing and international exposure done by renowned international operators and agents, or ensure that they are ready to promptly respond to international requests for information.

Further elaborating on some of the challenges facing Namibia’s tourism industry, Paetzold said that price plays a big role. By being a long-haul destination Namibia is already a fairly costly destination.
“While clients do consider general costs when making their decision on which destination to travel to, some travellers simply have a financial limit that cuts Namibia out of the equation from the start.”

Paetzold stressed that value for money is Namibia’s major challenge.
“We have to ensure that the travellers willing to spend their money on travelling to this long-haul destination really get value for their money in terms of both infrastructure and service. “Here, the Namibian product is still lacking from the point of arrival, immigration, and service.”
She said to make the tourism package perfect everyone should assist, from the immigration official to the taxi driver, the newspaper vendor, the receptionist at the hotel and the waiter in a cafe. “Tourism is simply everyone’s business, and if Namibia can maintain value for money, and improve its general service level, Namibia can and will remain ranking high among the travel destinations of choice worldwide,” Paetzold said.

Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR) said it also expects to benefit from the increased awareness of Namibia and to capitalise on the interest shown by international tourists in its facilities.

Mufaro Nesongano, the company’s Manager of Corporate Communications and Online Media, said NWR will help the country to maintain this momentum by offering the best service at all NWR resorts and continuously marketing itself on international platforms and advertising in international magazines
He said the company has been attending major trade fairs around the world to promote its products and services.

“For instance, last year we travelled to China with the aim of providing that market with more information about our resorts,” said Nesongano.
According to him, NWR and the Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) have decided to work together at the international fairs they attend. “This way we are able to stand as a country when we are out there marketing ourselves.”



Source: Namibian Sun
 

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“All good intentions and international focus would be wasted if the Namibian tourism industry on the receiving end was not ready to react to increased inquiries, requests for information and reservations.”

According to Paetzold the private sector should either choose to have their marketing and international exposure done by renowned international operators and agents, or ensure that they are ready to promptly respond to international requests for information.
.................
Source: Namibian Sun

Great insight.
The number of Outfitters who fail to update their websites and keep them current is astounding.
eg. I have noted one that are showing information that is three years out of date.
It does not present a good face to potential customers.
 

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