By Mbatjiua Ngavirue Windhoek Cabinet has approved the immediate implementation of the business plan and turnaround strategy of the ailing state-owned enterprise Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR), including the granting of a government guarantee for a loan of N$120 million. The announcement by Cabinet in a media release yesterday said government also undertook to assist with servicing the loan up to an amount of N$60 million. N$10 million of the N$60 million is to be provided under the contingency provision of 2006/2007, and the remainder under the next medium-term expenditure framework. NWR is responsible for the management of 23 resorts and campsites throughout the country, including within national parks and in the most pristine areas of Namibia. The statement noted that NWR had not managed to become profitable in its six years of operation, and had accumulated debts exceeding N$80 million. Services and infrastructure at its resorts deteriorated so much that some facilities failed to meet the minimum standards for registration with the Namibia Tourism Board, who warned NWR to improve its operations or face closure. Many of the assets of NWR are between 50 and 100 years old. The term of office of the then managing director (MD) was not renewed in June 2005, and not long after in September 2005 the company’s staff went on strike because NWR was unable to pay salaries. To rescue the situation a five-person team under Ambassador Ndeutapo Amagulo, as interim managing director, was appointed. The team developed a turnaround strategy that included measures to address the short-term financial and operational management needs, and urgently recruit a new MD for NWR. After extensive discussion of the plan with the Cabinet Treasury Committee, NWR was granted a government guarantee for N$27 million to settle immediate short-term obligations, such as paying suppliers, consolidating debt and securing salary payments until May 2006. The statement says that when Aupindi Tobie Aupindi became the new managing director of NWR in April 2006, a dramatic change in the management approach had already been implemented. A situational analysis of the company and its facilities resulted in the completion of a business plan and turnaround strategy for the company in line with decisions taken at the December 2005 Cabinet retreat in Swakopmund. The plan makes provision for the upgrading and redevelopment of NWR resorts at strategic sites in anticipation of increased tourism levels linked to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. The Etosha camps were identified as top priority with 2010 in mind, and the Etosha centenary celebrations in 2007. According to the media release, the plan will address the many shortcomings of NWR, including management, human resources, marketing, infrastructure, facilities as well as financial management. The government pointed out that worldwide tourism was the fastest growing industry and the sector had considerable further growth potential, as well as the potential to create employment. “NWR is situated in key tourist attractions and is pivotal to the tourism industry in Namibia and ideally positioned to benefit from this growth on condition that it is able to reposition itself as a provider of excellent services and products,” the government said.
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