Namibian stakeholders are well aware that the 2010 Soccer World Cup to be hosted in South Africa will offer this country limited but important opportunities to market itself to a wider audience. New Era spoke to the Managing Director of the Namibian Tourism Board (NTB), Digu //Naobeb, to find out some of the plans afoot to position the country to maximise on this event.
By Catherine Sasman
Why is Namibia preparing for the 2010 FIFA World Cup?
At the Southern African Development Community Heads of State level, countries agreed in principle that this World Cup should not only be for South Africa, it should holistically and comprehensively include the whole of southern Africa as well as the rest of Africa. There is, for example, the belief that this might be the only World Cup for the next 20 or 30 years that will be hosted in Africa. That must be seen in the spirit of NEPAD that countries have agreed to work towards the common development of Africa.
What does the Namibian tourism sector stand to benefit from the 2010 World Cup?
In terms of direct economic gain, I think the opportunity is very limited. The major gain for Namibia would be to use this event as a platform to create awareness about Namibia that will be sustained beyond 2010 as a preferred tourism destination. It gives us the marketing opportunity to underscore the spirit, culture and ethos of Namibia, as well as what attractions and diversified tourism potential we have to offer.
At the same time, this event presents the opportunity to develop the Trans-frontier Conservation Areas (TFCAs) – the national parks created between two or three countries, such as the Ai-Ais Richtersveld Park between Namibia and South Africa, as well as the Casa-Kavango-Zambezi Conservation Area between Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The TFCA component is working towards developing infrastructure within these areas that would be used for the World Cup 2010 as preferred destinations.
Plans are to roll out a marketing campaign specifically focusing on these areas and to develop these into packaged products for circular routes either by air or road starting from South Africa.
That would provide investment opportunities in areas that currently do not have proper infrastructure and supra-infrastructure, which will go beyond 2010 as a legacy to be used for various tourism activities.
The TFCA coordinating unit based in South Africa will be sending out consultants to all these areas in the vicinity of South Africa to map out the types of facilities needed to be developed, cost those and come out with an investment manual. An investment conference will be held in October in South Africa where international and African investors will be invited. It will be incumbent on these investors to gear up with the countries that are part of the TFCAs to direct their investments. These investors may be individuals or institutions, such as the Namibia Wildlife Resorts; we are made to understand that there will be a lodge developed very close to Sendelingsdrift, for example.
Of course, there are other benefits. I do not know how far this matter has been discussed, but MATCH – the company used by FIFA responsible for arranging accommodation for the FIFA delegates and other visitors – have been in Namibia talking to bigger hotel chains to see whether they can provide rooms to be included in their packages to sell abroad.
There is the incentive that tourists coming to South Africa might want to come to Namibia during off-times when their teams are not playing.
However, there is a bit of a concern on the side of the accommodation providers. The criteria that MATCH is proposing is that at least 80 percent of the rooms must be agreed to, and of course, if they are not able to sell those rooms, there is no refund.
Second to that is that MATCH is looking at discounted rates, which will be a problem.
But we are made to understand that some hotel providers in Namibia have already signed up with MATCH.
Equally, an idea mooted by the Government is that Namibia should work vigorously to solicit agreements with at least one or two qualifying countries to use Namibia as a training base to acclimatise their players. The National Football Association is the only body with the authority to approach their counterparts to negotiate this. We understand Germany has been approached, but we do not know exactly what transpired.
Other opportunities would include fan parks set up by local people – which involve setting up huge screens where games can be viewed live. This would, of course, provide opportunities for small and medium enterprises to provide food and beverages. This has to be undertaken through local authorities.
However, the geographical set-up of Namibia is a challenge. Flights to South Africa on average are about two hours long. There is the idea to use Namibia as a satellite venue, where visitors might wish to stay for safety and security reasons. This would require flights departing and arriving almost every hour, which is a challenge because of limited air access.
But of course, Air Namibia is looking at it as a potential to fill that gap. Air Namibia has also given us the assurance that there will be provision for the regular tourist to keep our tourism afloat during that time.
What is the tourism industry preparing for? There is an argument, for example, that soccer fans going to World Cup events often constitute soccer hooligans who are really only interested in going to their games, getting drunk and stumble between the stadiums and their places of accommodation.
We are conscious of that and we recognise the fact that those coming to South Africa as spectators would not ideally be tourists themselves. As a result of that, what Namibia is looking at now is that the issue of a satellite venue might not take off.
Our major premise is to focus on displaced tourists – there are two types we want to target. These are South African nationals who would want to escape from their country due to the over-crowdedness during that time. Some of them might be renting out their houses, for example.
We would like to give them the sense that Namibia can offer them the tranquility and peace of mind while spending time away from home with their families.
These visitors would necessarily be serious and obliging citizens of South Africa.
Equally, we are also looking at displaced tourists in our international source markets, especially continental Europe, that would have ideally liked to go to South Africa during that period.
We are positioning our open skies, wide and open landscapes that will give such tourists the solitude they want.
We have had a workshop in January to thrash out these issues that give us a sense of direction. We have started to work on our action plans, which will be finalised by the end of March, after which our marketing, adverts and campaigns will really start.
What marketing strategies are in place?
Some of the strategies are to engage tour operators and suppliers in source countries in continental Europe to develop tourism packages to sell to potential tourists for the pre-, during- and post-2010 periods.
We are also looking at working with the international media to cover Namibia that can host tourists during that period.
We are looking at developing an on-line video that will project Namibia’s wildlife, serenity and other appeals targeted at the displaced tourism market segment.
Then we are also looking at World Cup tours, where, for example, football enthusiasts would want to follow their teams during the 2009 preliminary rounds.
We want to project the image that we are not only here for World Cup 2010, but that we are here beyond all of that.
Media competitions such as the promotion of a trip to Namibia and so on are being looked at.
But the details of these are to be set out and executed by the end of March.
What would you say are the major impediments facing the tourism industry for 2010?
As much as we are trying to set up tourism packages with international tour operators and wholesale suppliers is that we are not sure if the ground handlers – the local tour operators – will be able to handle it due to a possible shortage of bulk vehicles. Most of the tour operators or car hire companies are branches of mother companies in South Africa.
During last year’s peak tourism season, they have run out of vehicles.
The South African businesses have indicated that they would have a shortage of vehicles, and we therefore fear the scenario where South African mother companies will pull some of the vehicles here for usage there.
Secondly, should the idea of a satellite venue get off the ground, we are not sure of the amount of accommodation will be sourced by MATCH, which needs 80 percent of the rooms to be assigned to them. If that were the case, accommodation would be a problem.
This would, however, be an avenue for B&Bs, guesthouses, smaller hotels and pensions to accommodate visitors. These establishments would then have to upgrade and modernise their facilities to be used by people with the experience of Namibia as a luxury destination.
For soccer fans coming to Namibia when their teams are not playing, it would be opportune for southern African countries to look at opening up – even for only that period – their skies to enable non-scheduled airlines to charter flights to various destinations in South Africa.
From your contact through your activities and office in South Africa do you think they are well prepared for the 2010 soccer showcase?
Our understanding is that South Africa has really developed a safety and security strategy. The understanding is that more people will be employed and trained especially to safeguard the visitors. They have held discussions with, for example, the United Kingdom and Germany, where the arrangement during the last World Cup was a UK police force assigned to Germany knowing the pattern of hyper activity of English spectators. I believe the situation will probably be the same.
South Africa is also looking at sprucing up its security and surveillance capacities to nip opportunistic criminal activities in the bud.