By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK The recently concluded Namibia Tourism Expo 2006 has been described as another resounding success. The exercise has been in existence for seven years. According to the event organiser, Glenda Manthe-Grobler her office has received positive remarks from both exhibitors and visitors to the forum. Held with the main aim to create local awareness about the tourism sector, and to accord the public an opportunity to experience what Namibia has to offer in terms of tourist attractions, this year’s Expo recorded an increase of 777 visitors. Current participation rose to 10 150 from 9373 visitors who flocked to the event last year. “It has been an absolute success. We have received fantastic feedback from participants,” she said. Highlights at this year’s exposition included a competition for Namibian chefs that was organised by the Namibia Chef Association, a performance Chefs In Action featuring performances by celebrity chefs, Ongomo workshop, teens in tourism programme and TASA bush cook competition. Manthe-Grobler added that this year’s Expo saw the participation of the Small and Medium Entrepreneurs (SMEs). She said this is a good sign that the industry is expanding. The annual event in this regard is important for people from previously disadvantaged communities as it creates an opportunity for smaller Namibian operators to acquire some ideas on how they can improve their own products. Tourism is an industry that many governments throughout the world and in particular developing nations have recognised as having the potential for job creation and economic growth. The Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) Strategic Executive for Marketing and Research Shareen Thude also described this year’s expo as a success. She stated that her office shares some of the concerns expressed by foreign exhibitors, who were disappointed with the poor attendance of local tour operators that are regarded as crucial for marketing the country beyond its borders. Thude however indicated that the NTB together with other relevant stakeholders would before the end of this year engage in dialogue and seek solutions to this challenge. “Next year, we want to see the participation of more tour operators and inspire SMEs,” stated Thude. As it is, the few operators present at the Expo are those operating within Namibia and not beyond. “We share the concerns and through dialogue, we will ensure that there is more participation next year. We have to progressively move forward,” she added. She stated that compared to previous years, there is an increasing improvement in terms of display standards. The NTB faces challenges of marketing the tourism industry to the local people. She indicated that her institution and other stakeholders will devise strategies and make an effort to ensure that the local people appreciate and embrace what their country has. There are many Namibians who can afford to be tourists. During holidays, the local people travel beyond the borders of the country as tourists and thus, ways should be found to transform these people from being foreign tourists in other countries to being domestic tourists, she stated.
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