NWR on track toward sustainable profitability

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Edgar Brandt

Windhoek-Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR) has made significant strides in improving its revenue 2016.

The state-owned enterprise has not yet reached the position where it can pay dividends to its only shareholder, the government.

However, Managing Director Zelna Hengari and her board of directors have made paying dividends to the shareholder a priority for the future.

New Era’s Senior Business Reporter, Edgar Brandt, sat down for one-on-one interview with Hengari about NWR’s stellar performance in 2016 and what the public could expect from the company in terms of performance for 2017.

Q: NWR reported some positive figures for the last year, specifically during the festive season. What were some of the factors that led to the well-reported occupancy rates during 2016 and during the festive season in particular?

A: The Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) and we have been making significant strides in marketing Namibia as a great destination to visit. These efforts greatly contributed to the improved figures for 2016 with the anticipation that 2017 will be an even a greater year. Apart from that, we had devised a marketing strategy targeted at the domestic market that include initiatives such as a NamLeisure Cards and targeted discounts.

For example, during the festive season, we ran a 60 percent discount that was solely targeted at our less travelled camps/resorts due to the high demand from the domestic market. This proved successful and we had the pleasure of hosting many of our compatriots as well as visitors from the region.

Q: Which were you best performing resorts during 2016 and why were they the most popular?

A: Some of the best performing resorts for 2016 were Okaukuejo, which generated N$100 million in revenue for the first time in its history. We are working hard to sustain this momentum and to improve on that achievement. Sossus Dune Lodge along with Sesriem Campsite also did very well. For instance, during the festive period in December 2016, Sesriem Campsite had full occupancy. Torra Bay also had full occupancy during the same period as well.

Q: Which were your worst performing resorts during 2016 and why were you not satisfied with their performance?

A: The resorts that did not meet our expectations were Waterberg, Gross Barmen and Hardap. When it comes to Waterberg, there are many challenges that we are working on to ensure that this great resort contributes fully to the company’s performance. Gross Barmen and Hardap were recently re-introduced after having been closed for renovations. We therefore anticipated their slow uptake back into the market though we have been working hard on creating product awareness. The prevailing economic situation also affects these resorts negatively as they are geared towards the MICE market (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Events), which is currently depressed.

Q: What are your expectations for NWR’s performance in 2017?

A: In 2017 we plan to improve on 2016 as we relentlessly march towards sustainable profitability. There are a few initiatives that we are going to pursue this year and we believe that they will be game changers for NWR. At the same time, with the roll out of our performance agreements, the team members will be accountable for the targets they have each signed for and that will make it easier for us to report back to the public on how the company has performed, keeping in mind that they are our main shareholders through the Namibian Government.

Q: What measures have you implemented to ensure NWR reaches its intended 2017 performance targets?

A: The introduction of performance agreements is the one measure that will ensure our ability to reach our targets and drive our overall performance in line with our shareholder’s expectations.

Q: I recall an issue with the signing of your contract with NWR. Have these issues been resolved and has the contract now been signed?

A: The new Board saw to it that that issue was resolved to the satisfaction of both parties. In addition to the employment agreement, a performance agreement was also signed setting out clear performance targets, which cascade downward throughout the whole company.

Q: How much has NWR paid to government in dividends since its inception? Also, when was the last time NWR paid dividends and when do you anticipate the next dividend payment will be made to government?

A: Zero, and we are intent on reversing that unfortunate trend. This Board of Directors has made that a priority as part of the pursuit of sustainable profitability. It should also be noted that through our 908 employees, we are actively playing a vital role in assisting the Government in its effort to eradicate poverty.

Q: Are you happy with the ownership structure of NWR resorts?

A: NWR is fully owned by the Namibian government as a strategic entity to drive the participation of Namibians in the important and fast growing tourism sector of the economy. Through our engagement with PPPs we have further increased investments in the tourism sector with the accompanying benefit of increased employment. We still need to do more, especially in terms of ensuring that previously disadvantaged Namibians participate fully within the tourism value chain.

Q: Is there any other relevant information you wish to share with our readers?

A: I must add that with the hiring of a proven business leader as Chief Operations Officer, our guests can look forward to operational efficiency and customer service delivery that exceed their expectations. Our stakeholders can expect sound corporate governance at NWR, which the recent appointment of a competent Company Secretary as well as the continued commitment of the Board of Directors will assure.
At the same time, our Hobas Camp in the Fish River Canyon now has a new restaurant and rooms in addition to the campsites. Therefore, guests can look forward to this additional offering. There are also new initiatives that will see the light of day in this year.

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