… Over Absence of Local Tour Operators By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Foreign exhibitors at the Namibia Tourism Expo 2006 have expressed concern over the absence of local tour operators who are crucial for marketing Namibia to the outside world. The Namibia Tourism Expo should serve as a platform where local tour operators could mingle and share information with those from outside the borders of Namibia. This would in turn promote interaction between tourist-destination selling businesses not only within Namibia, but also the entire Southern African region. “We are worried about the absence of tour operators and that would mean predominant absence of trade,” a concerned Zimbabwean Tourism Area Manager for Southern African Ndaipaneyi Mukwena stated. She added that most of the local participants are in the bed and breakfast business that would not make so much impact when dealing with the marketing of a country on an international level. Despite this challenge, Mukwena described this year’s expo as well attended. Promoting “Zimbabwe, Africa’s Paradise,” she indicated that despite all the perceived problems in Zimbabwe, by far people at the Expo wanted to find out more about the heartbeat of tourism in Zimbabwe, which is the Victoria Falls. “Safety is never an issue in Zimbabwe. Petrol issues were worrying in the past but now the situation has normalized and that is why we are here to give information about the country and what it can offer,” Mukwena added. Promoting Tourism Malaysia, Abubakar Mamat equally expressed satisfaction over the local support at the Expo, but raised concern over poor participation of the tour operators. He added that Namibia has great potential to take the tourism industry to greater heights provided some few issues are re-looked. Mamat told New Era that tourism in Namibia is expensive, as such only a few foreigners can afford it. During the official opening of this year’s Expo, the Deputy Minister of Environment and Tourism Leon Jooste expressed disappointment over lack of domestic tourism. According to Mamat, the tourism industry in Namibia has taken two approaches. Some are in the business to generate income, while others are concerned about conserving nature. Though it is the fourth largest contributor to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) there is a need to re-look at the strategies in place for attracting more people to the country. The 400 000 foreign tourists to the country on an annual basis is not a reason to be complacent, Mamat advised. “If domestic tourism has to improve, there is a need to provide affordable tourism facilities. Transportation is crucial and pricing is another important element to seriously consider in this industry,” he said. The Namibia Tourism Expo idea is commendable though organizers should in future consider hosting it more than once per year to intensify awareness on what Namibia can offer, Mamat concluded. Other international countries such as India were also impressed with the Expo turn-up and advised the Namibian industry to intensify local tourism, adding that there is no way the industry in this country would develop if the local people do not know about their own areas. The local people are crucial to the marketing of their own product, stated one exhibitor from ‘Incredible India’. The Namibia Tourism Expo 2006 ended yesterday.
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