I Do Not Plan to Fail, Says Aupindi

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It would appear that Government is quite determined to revamp Namibia’s state-run resorts. By appointing Aupindi Tobie Aupindi as new Managing Director of Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR), the board of the state-owned parastatal has managed to acquire the services of a highly qualified business graduate. After getting his MBA in Strategic Management at the Maastricht School of Management in The Netherlands, Aupindi started his career as special assistant to the Minister of Lands between 1998 and 2001. He then became special assistant to the Minister of Environment and Tourism from 2001 to 2003 before being hired by Wilderness Safaris as their General Manager for Marketing and Communication, and later as General Manager of Strategic Business Development and Marketing. The 31-year-old is taking up his new position as NWR’s boss on April 1. New-Era correspondent EDGAR HÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ’ÂÃ’šÂ¬Ã…¾LBICH spoke to him during the International Tourism Exchange (ITB) in Berlin. New Era: What made you decide to leave the private sector and rejoin a state-run orga-nisation? Aupindi: I believe that in Namibia, we have good policies but we don’t do well at all when it comes to implementing them. As a person who knows both state-run and private enterprises, I believe that I will be able to put the policies into practice. The board has chosen me as their candidate because they know that things need to change. Tourism is more important than most people think. It is the only sector that interacts directly with each and every other sector of the Namibian industry. Be it the Portuguese mini market around the corner, the cattle farmer or the petrol attendant at the fuel station – they all somehow depend on tourism. New Era: How do you see Namibia Wildlife Resorts as a corporate entity? Aupindi: To be straightforward: although its locations are perfectly placed, NWR has an awful image at the moment. The corporation is a critical part of tourism. Namibian tourism cannot do without NWR. But at this stage, its quality is not what it should be, which is one of the reasons I applied for the job I was subsequently offered. I still believe to this day that government did the right thing in commercialising NWR. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite perform as everybody thought it would. New Era: What are the first changes you will put into place after taking office? Aupindi: To comment on that at this stage would be too early. I first have to carry out a strategic analysis of the existing situation. Questions like ‘Which resources invested do not give me the desired output’ or ‘Which segments do not perform’ have to be answered first. Only then will I be able to put the appropriate changes into place. New Era: Where do you see the main problem the organisa-tion is experiencing at the moment? Aupindi: Some resorts have gone beyond repair; let’s not fool ourselves about that. And if we are quite honest, we will notice that most resorts don’t meet the requirements of modern tourism any more. They might have been good products when they were built in the sixties and seventies, but today’s tourism demands different standards. Something else I noticed is that the staff doesn’t undergo career-oriented training. They need to be trained permanently, and we have to make them understand their brand. But please don’t think that changes will take place overnight, because the situation we are currently finding ourselves in didn’t come about overnight either. The problems we are currently experiencing have been developing over a long period of time. New Era: What makes you think that the private industry will support you in your endeavours? Aupindi: I sincerely believe that it is in the interest of the industry that NWR does well. I don’t see the corporation as a competitor to the private sector. Complementing private enterprise is rather more important. And if Namibia wants to be successful in competing against other tourism destinations, we have no choice but to revamp NWR’s products. New Era: Do you have a vision? Aupindi: Oh yes, I certainly do. My vision is to see NWR play a critical role in the eco-nomy, having well-trained staff, complementing the private sector and offering a prime product. Namibia is a quality destination. This quality should be extended to all the products we offer. New Era: One should think that this would be your toughest challenge yet. Aupindi: I’ve experienced challenges much worse. Remember that I am a product of the liberation struggle. It will certainly not always be easy to build equally strong networks to the publics, the labour unions, government, the private sector and staff, but I do not plan to fail. This is also because I know that there is a general consensus within the private sector that they support government’s decision in having selected me as their favourite candidate. Everybody knows that you can never achieve goals like these in isolation. The fact that the company has facilities at the most important tourist destinations gives me the confidence to believe that we can make it.

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