Luxury at Impalila

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Four Countries Lodge Planned for Caprivi By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK The Caprivi region is destined to become one of Africa’s most important tourism hubs if the proposed development of a multi-million-dollar Four Countries Lodge on Impalila Island comes to fruition. The Eastern Caprivi, in which the island is situated is known for its extraordinary wildlife and unadulterated beauty, which after attracting further development in the form of an ultra-luxury lodge has the potential to promote local economic development in the Caprivi and also to showcase the confluence of four African countries. The development is part of the Walvis Bay Spatial Development Initiative (SDI), where key tourism development projects have been identified to promote investment and growth in the SADC region. Namibia and its counterpart South Africa are implementing the SDI programme to promote projects along the Trans Kalahari highway, which forms part of the Coast-to-Coast programme. Four anchor projects which are beyond 100 km from the corridor, namely Namibia Naukluft Park, Daan Viljoen Park, Impalila Island and Moeb Bay, have been identified for maximization of opportunities and potential of the country and to provide a variety of products in the name of tropical, desert and coastal to tourists. The concept of the proposed luxury lodge on the island was born considering that it is situated at the confluence of Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana and close to great key selling features of the region, which include Chobe and Moremi National Park, Victoria Falls, specialised wildlife viewing, Okavango Delta, Mamili, Mudumu and Bwabwata national parks in Namibia. A draft report of a tourism market feasibility study conducted by ECI Africa, to determine the viability of such a development, found that the proposed lodge would not only be a development driver for the island but would also consolidate the positioning of the island in a niche market of luxury eco-tourism combined with cultural tourism. The report says: “The Four Countries Lodge is conceptualised as an ultra luxury lodge with floating bridges, boats meandering through two rivers, personalised service, food cooked with freshly grown ingredients on the island, architecture and dÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚©cor incorporating typical essential elements in the culture of the four countries.” The lodge will add marketing muscle to the region through positioning it to become the centre to the Caprivi and Chobe Park. The lodge is conceptualised as a 40-room structure and will create employment for the 1 100 inhabitants of the island. Key developments in the area are the new bridge between Namibia and Zambia, which has opened up new regional trade, the planned new water front development and a major hotel development in Chobe National Park. Existing infrastructure on the island include the Impalila Island Lodge, Ichingo River Lodge, both with eight rooms each, a landing airstrip for light aircraft, customs and immigration and local villages. The lodge together with existing facilities will offer four levels at the upper end, and ultra luxury 7-star presidential suites, whose recommended rates range from N$1 200 to N$2 200 for a 4-star to N$4 200 up to N$5 000 for a 7-star room per night. The estimated development cost of the lodge is N$51.1 million, whose financing is anticipated to be by way of both equity and loan finance. The study projects revenue to be generated from rooms, restaurant and bar activities and curio purchases to be N$21 million in the first year, increasing to N$30 million and N$43 million in the fifth and 10th year respectively. The study identified the luxury lodge as a new development, which will be ultra luxury and of premium quality. The facilities will be located in the hub of African wildlife and nature. Its other strengths are that it will be close to the stronger regional attractions such as Victoria Falls and Okavango, while at the same time contributing to Namibia’s portfolio as a wildlife destination and even become a competitor to Botswana’s delta lodges. Ministry of Trade and Industry’s Permanent Secretary, Andrew Ndishishi told New Era recently the project is at an advanced stage and just needs drive. The Caprivi Regional Council is playing a promotional role for the project, which Ndishishi said if realised, would bring a new economic dimension to the region. “As Government, we have done our part and we do not have a private local investor. We feel the council must now come in,” he said. Governor Bernard Sibalatani said yesterday the project was good and after studying the feasibility study report, the council could look for the land that is required for the development and also look for investors. “We will start negotiating with the traditional authorities for the amount of land required when we have the right details,” said the governor. However, some of the weaknesses that the feasibility report identified include high development costs, focus on high-end international markets, weak national marketing and institutional support for such a development and also the strong South African tourism products as regional competitors. Some of the competitors to the new development have been identified as Lianshulu and Susuwe Island lodges in Namibia, Chitabe, Duba plains, Joa, Kwetsani, and Mombo, Vumbura and Xigera camps among others in Botswana. The camps in Botswana are operated by Wilderness Safaris, a strong wildlife and tour operator in Africa, which offers fully inclusive packages which vary between US$4 000 and US$9 000 for 12 days. Rooms at these camps cost between US$350 and US$1 000 per person sharing, all inclusive. However, the report indicates that there are good opportunities in the market for new upmarket facilities in the Eastern Caprivi. Based on the current operating performance of the luxury lodge, the establishments provide 216 bedrooms, which achieve an occupancy rate of 52 percent. In terms of room nights sold, this translates into around 78 000 per year. The study recommended: “A fresh and more competitive product in the upmarket range could be very successful. “Such an establishment would be positioned at both the upper and luxury end of the market, covering a variety of needs in the top market bracket,” it adds.