By Catherine Sasman
The Onkoshi Camp – or lion camp – is the first tourism camp to be built since independence in the world-renowned Etosha National Park.
Set against the dramatic backdrop of the Etosha Pan, which is currently filled to the brim from the influx of floodwaters from the Cuvelai river system, newly appointed Minister of Environment and Tourism, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, inaugurated the groundbreaking development last week Thursday.
The Onkoshi Camp is being built on the eastern edge of the Etosha Pan on a secluded peninsula.
Managing Director of Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR) Tobie Aupindi said the development is part of the turnaround strategy of the public utility over the last 15 months.
He said the concept and the location of the camp would afford visitors to the Etosha National Park the opportunity to experience at close quarters the most significant feature of the park, which is the 45 000 square kilometer big saline pan.
“The Etosha National Park is underdeveloped for tourism, and the NWR, as the stakeholders’ tourism business arm, is committed to ensuring the value of the parks is maximised through the strategic and sustainable development of tourism facilities,” said Aupindi.
The camp is designed as an exclusive, low-impact environmentally friendly semi-permanent and up-market lodge on elevated wooden decks built on stilts, of 15 units and 30 beds. There will be an associated restaurant, bar area, and an infinity pool overlooking the pan.
Guests to the lodge will be brought in by NWR guides and in NWR vehicles. There will no self-drives to the lodge.
Delivering the keynote address at the ceremony, Minister Nandi-Ndaitwah said tourism is the only sector that is demonstrating significant positive growth, with the Namibian Government having identified the sector as one to generate employment, reduce poverty, empower local communities and provide incentives to improve natural resource management.
“[The] nature of the travel and tourism industry is such that is has the ability to have positive spin-offs throughout the broad spectrum of the economy, not only directly, but also indirectly through the multiplier effect. New tourism facilities not only create new jobs, but boost the local and national economy by injecting direct funds through the purchase of goods and services, and also increasing expenditure in other sectors of the economy,” said Nandi-Ndaitwah.
According to the latest Tourism Satellite Accounting research released by the World Travel and Tourism Council, Namibia is projected to have the fastest growth in travel and tourism direct employment out of 176 countries.
The Namibian tourism sector’s growth is estimated at 7.4 percent per annum, which is the second highest projected growth in terms of the contribution to the Gross National Product – projected at 10.5 percent per year.
In 2006, the tourism sector accounted for 20 500 direct jobs (or 5.1 percent of the total employment in Namibia) and 54 500 indirect jobs (which translates into 13.5 percent of the total employment in the country).
Nandi-Ndaitwah said it is imperative that the sector retains its competitive advantages by protecting the natural assets.
She said the NWR turnaround strategy has created more than 250 new jobs and has improved the financial state of affairs of the company.
It is anticipated that the company will create another 200 jobs in the coming year through the development of new facilities and diversification of services.
The company has focused on smaller eco-friendly establishments like the Sossus Dune Lodge, as well as the Onkoshi Lodge.
Nandi-Ndaitwah said the NWR is rapidly redeeming itself and demonstrating that State-owned enterprises can operate within a highly competitive business environment.
The Onkoshi Camp, she said, is to allow visitors to experience the tranquility and splendor of the Etosha National Park.