Swakop Wants Maximum from Tourism

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By Francis Mukuzunga SWAKOPMUND The Swakopmund Municipality is working on a strategic plan to revitalise its tourism industry so as to get maximum benefit from the town’s rich historic and tourist attractions. The town’s Manager for Community Development, Vilho Kaulinge, last week revealed this to New Era. “We will soon appoint a consultancy company to do a feasibility study for improving services in the town in line with the government’s Vision 2030 policy,” he told New Era. However, financial constraints seem to be delaying implementation of the project as the Swakopmund Municipality does not get a government subsidy but generates its own income on levies from tourist attractions and from some of its own business entities. The money that is generated mainly goes to services such as roads, housing, electricity and water reticulation, not leaving much room for other projects. With a growing population of between 20 000 and 25 000 to cater for, Swakopmund faces the daunting task of generating much of its income from tourism. The town offers some of the most unique and contrasting sceneries that include the majestic sandy beaches on the Atlantic coast on the one hand, and the desert on the other. In addition, the brightly painted historical buildings that co-exist with modern structures make the town one of the most unique in the world. During a visit to the coast by members of the media last week, it was realised that tourism was booming, but it was only the foreign visitors rather than local people enjoying the scenes and sights. There are varying reasons for this, one of them being the question of affordability. Kaulinge says most low-to-middle income earners in Namibia have found having a holiday in Swakopmund an expensive venture. To avoid this, he adds, they should take advantage of the special offers and discounts during the pre and post-peak season periods. The peak seasons in the region are between July and October and also December, as well as during the long public holidays. In between these, the rates charged for accommodation and other entertainment spots within the costal town are relatively lower. The journalists had a chance to stay at one of the town council’s tourism business ventures, the Municipal Bungalows. Kaulinge described the bungalows as one of the alternative accommodation venues for those wishing to take up cost-effective and quiet holidays and in a relaxed atmosphere. He however advised locals to book in advance, as most of the places are fully booked during the peak seasons, as visitors from neighbouring countries tend to come to the coast in big numbers. The bungalows, situated in a rest camp just a stone’s throw from the coastline, are wholly owned by the Swakopmund Municipality and have turned out to be the most sought after means of accommodation by local and foreign visitors alike. The rest camp was initially built during the colonial era as cheap holiday accommodation for fishermen after long days at sea. The Ministry of Environment and Tourism acquired and refurbished them in 1980 but the Swakopmund Municipality bought them outrightly and thereafter turned them into a business venture. “We have a total of 189 self-catering units that can accommodate up to 898 beds at any given time,” says Kaulinge. Crockery, cutlery and cooking utensils are only provided for at the luxury and VIP units. For the other facilities, these can be provided upon request. Shops, restaurants, take-aways, filling stations, banks and a laundry are within walking distance from the rest camp. There is also a heated swimming-pool not very far from the camp. The rest camp also has a conference centre to cater for a business environment and this can be used by companies or organisations. Kaulinge believes the bungalows could be refurbished to cater for a more sophisticated market in the near future, or at least by 2010 when a tourism boom is expected in southern Africa when South Africa and Angola host the soccer World Cup and the African Cup of Nations games respectively.