By Mbatjiua Ngavirue WINDHOEK All indications are that this year’s Christmas holiday break was highly successful for Namibian tourism operators, with accommodation establishments at the coast in particular fully booked. At this stage neither the Ministry of Environment and Tourism nor the Hospitality Association of Namibia has yet compiled statistics on the number of holidaymakers the country received. The feeling among key tourism-industry players however is that visitor numbers this year were well above average. “We have seldom had such a good season, especially at the coast. There was a remarkably high number of visitors from South Africa,” said Gitta Paetzold of the Hospitality Association of Namibia. She added this was clear evidence that the marketing campaigns carried out by the Namibia Tourism Board in South Africa are starting to bear fruit. According to Paetzold, prospective South African visitors are still inquiring about making bookings at Namibian hotels and guesthouses for the rest of January and the rest of the year. The high number of visitors at the coast was not limited to Swakopmund but included Henties Bay and camping resorts along the coast such as Miles 4, 14, 72 and 108. Sales and Marketing Manager for Ohlthaver & List’s Namib Sun Hotels Group, Natalie Ahrens, confirmed the positive view of the Christmas holiday period. She said her company ran quite aggressive specials over the holiday period, resulting in a quite substantial increase in Namibian, South African and Botswana visitors to the company’s hotels. Generally, the past two years have seen a trend towards increased visitors to Namibia from Botswana and Angola over the Christmas period. Ahrens further reported substantial increases in local visitors to the company’s lodges such as Chobe Kings Den and Mokuti Lodge, with the Chobe Lodge particularly popular with families. Namib Sun Hotel’s Thuringerhof Hotel also did surprisingly well, proving a hit with South African and Botswana visitors who used it as a stopover on their journeys here and back to their respective countries. The Strand Hotel, which overlooks the sea at Swakopmund, saw 20 percent higher occupancy rates this year than for the corresponding period the previous year. December and January are historically part of the low season for overseas tourists to Namibia but this year even tour operators that rely mainly on overseas visitors made good business. Alta Bredenkamp of the Tour and Safari Association said many of the association’s members report being busier than in previous years over the Christmas season. The tourism high season used to end in September/October, but tour operators have seen it gradually extend into November/December. Bredenkamp said there was a new development in the form of special Christmas/New Year tours in Namibia, particularly popular with German, Italian and United Kingdom tourists.