By Catherine Sasman WINDHOEK The ninth Namibia Tourism Expo commences today at the Windhoek Show Grounds, where it will continue until Saturday. The expo, say organizers, will be the biggest and most varied so far, with 276 exhibitors, most of whom are Namibian. “We see a steady increase in the number of exhibitors and visitors each year,” said Expo Coordinator, Glenda Manthe-Grobler. “The expo will show off the country to the general public and other interested people, as well as encourage Namibians to become travellers in their own country,” remarked Claudia LÃƒÆ’Ã†’Ãƒâ€ ‘ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â ‘ÃƒÆ’Ã†”Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¼ck, Head of Marketing Operations at the Namibia Tourism Board (NTB). Although Namibia is emerging as one of the fastest growing tourism destinations in the southern African region, currently only about 31 percent of the market constitutes domestic travellers. The expo serves as a one-stop-shop for the Namibian tourism industry, where largely Namibian tourism agencies will exhibit their products. Other countries that will have desks at the expo are Indonesia, Finland, India and South Africa. Manthe-Grobler commented that this year’s exhibitions try not only to rope in more visitors to the event, but also high-end clients for the more pricy tourism destinations. However, low-end travellers are also catered for with exhibitions of camping accessories and domestic safari outfits. Participating for the third year is the Itumba outdoor restaurant belonging to the Trustco Group. “We expect an increased participation and anticipation from tour operators from abroad and elsewhere,” said Itumba Managing Director, Dirk Kleinschmidt. The group will showcase its new concept of upmarket tented camps that will go up at the Itumba outdoor facility on the outskirts of Windhoek. Highlights of the expo will be the Namibian chefs competition and cooking demonstrations of local culinary feats. The competition, according to Angelique Leff of the Namibian Chefs Association, is to improve the quality of local chefs, as well as encourage school-goers to enter the sector. “There is a huge demand for chefs in the country and that is why we have junior and senior categories for the competition,” said Leff. The competition will also have a restaurant and hotel challenge. To make things more interesting on the culinary scene is a chefs’ theatre – fashioned after the BBC food television channel with local and South African chefs teaching audiences new techniques in cooking. Today will also see the launch of the Eco Media Awards, which according to the chairperson of the awards, Wolfgang Schenck, is to encourage environmental journalism, currently sorely neglected in the country. The media awards have two categories: one for publishers and one for individual journalists. Submissions for the awards close on September 30 this year, and the winners are to be announced in November. A host of cultural groups will perform throughout the expo, with highlights from Namibia’s Ondungu Cultural group, the Mascato Youth Choir and the Namib Marimbas. A big attraction is the Minstrels Kaapse Klopse, a festive traditional coming from the old colonial past of Cape Town. Big on this year’s expo are the various motor show demonstrations. On Friday, the NTB will be hosting a workshop in support of the small and medium-sized enterprises entering the tourism industry.
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