By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK Although the natural beauties of Namibia are known worldwide, few Namibians have travelled around their own country to experience these beauties. Reason? Namibian tourism establishments are expensive for a common person despite the many discounts offered. On top of this, it is perceived that tourism establishments are meant for foreign tourists only because locals are served as stand-ins who are only lured by discounted rates, especially during the off-season. But this week the Gondwana Desert Collection, which has lodges in the south of the country, launched an initiative that will enable Namibians to witness not only the scenic beauty but also the plentitude of wildlife those areas are endowed with. The “Go 4 Deserts” initiative will enable Namibians – permanent as well as temporary residents – to stay at these establishments for half the normal price. Gondwana has created the Gondwana Card, which will be given to anyone in possession of a Namibian passport, or to permanent or temporary residents who apply for the card. The card, which is valid for a year, will cost N$100 for adult holders and N$50 for children between six and 14 years. “Holders of the Gondwana Card will pay half the normal price for bed and breakfast in any of the accommodations of the Gondwana Desert Collection,” said the statement, adding that children between six and 14 will pay a quarter of the normal price, while meals will be granted at 25 percent discount. The initiative which comes after the realization that Namibia lacks a distinct travelling finesse, explains why holiday travel is a luxury in a developing country. “Instead of exploring their country, many prefer to spend their vacations with relatives at home or on the farm, at their seaside holiday home or in the Cape. They also go on excursions into the wilds which, without expecting a great deal of inconvenience, are spent in the open, at camping sites or in self-catering accommodation,” said a press statement from Gondwana. On the contrary, in industrial countries such as Europe, people in the medium-income bracket spend their holidays in far-off countries, such as Namibia, where they look for vast landscapes with its almost pristine nature. Gondwana’s Board Chairperson, Chris Gouws, said since Namibians could not afford travelling to expensive lodges, the initiative was meant to make Namibians travel more to preserve the environment for future generations. Jackie Asheeke, Chief Executive Officer of the Federation of Namibia Tourism Associations (FENATA), lauded Gondwana on its initiative, which she said was a business that many others were not willing to undertake. But considering that leisure travel needs disposable income, more people would travel if the prices of tourism establishments were lower. “The more people travel, the more they will support domestic tourism,” she said. At the launch, former Namibia Tourism Board Chief Executive Officer, Gideon Shilongo, Travel News Magazine editor, RiÃƒÆ’Ã†’Ãƒâ€ ‘ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â ‘ÃƒÆ’Ã†”Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â©th van Schalkvyk, and FENATA CEO, Jackie Asheeke, received Gondwana Ambassadors cards for their work in rumouring tourism in Namibia. Tourism is one of Namibia economy’s driving forces, according to the Tourism Satellite Account that was done last year. Namibia’s tourism sector has the potential to grow annually and contribute 3.7 percent (N$1.6 billion) to the Gross National Product (8.6 percent). In terms of jobs, the sector in 2006 employed 18ÃƒÆ’Ã†’Ãƒâ€ ‘ÃƒÆ’ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒ…ÃƒÆ’Ã†”Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â 000 people directly, a number that grows to 70ÃƒÆ’Ã†’Ãƒâ€ ‘ÃƒÆ’ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒ…ÃƒÆ’Ã†”Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â 000 when indirect jobs created by the sector are added. The Gondwana Desert Collection has tourism establishments in four desert systems of Namibia, namely the Kalahari, Nama karoo, Succulent Karoo and the Namib. The establishments are situated close to prominent sights in the South such as the red dunes of the Kalahari, the Fish River Canyon, the wild horses of the Namib Desert, and Kolmanskop, as well as the north of Sesriem and Sossusvlei.