DUBAI, UAE - Namibia has entered the race to win the Middle East tourism market though it faces stiff competition from neighbouring countries within Southern Africa, which are all seeking to boost their tourism markets that have traditionally relied on the West for survival.
The after-effects of the global crisis have left many European and American households without sufficient disposable income for luxury activities such as travelling.
Hence the region's new outlook to markets with potential, such as the Middle East and Asia. âOur hope is to tap into the Arabian market, for thus far Namibia has only had traditional markets such as Europe. We want to add to that [traditional market] so that we do not put all our eggs in one basket,â said the Deputy Minister of Environment and Tourism, Uahekua Herunga, who together with officials from the Namibia Tourism Board (NTB), represented the country at the exhibitions at the Dubai Annual Investment Meeting, taking place in Dubai.
The Arabian Travel Market expo, regarded as the Mecca of the travel and tourism industry, is taking place parallel to the Dubai Annual Investment Meeting and is the largest single market place where the âwho's who' of the tourism and travel industry come together to look at new market potentials. Airlines, hotel groups, travel consultants and tourism professionals gather at this event with the view of unlocking business potential within the Middle East for inbound and outbound tourism professionals, according to event organisers. Herunga says the Middle East is an ideal market for Namibia, with many people having access to cash and with interest in exploring alternative and new travel or tourist destinations. The Arabian Travel Market expo has been running now forthe past 19 years and the keen interest from African countries, especially from Southern Africa, is evidenced by the number of international exhibition stands with their array of tourism products.
South Africa, for instance, brought along safari operators in its national parks to tour operators managing the wine routes of the Cape. Maggy Mbako, of the NTB, says although this time Namibia did not bring along many local tour operators, they would use the experience to report back on the potential of being present at the Arabian Travel Market expo. Mbako says understandably tourism operators are always skeptical about expenses on markets they are unsure of, but Namibia's participation would no doubt help to reassure and hopefully encourage them to participate next year.
Deputy minister Herunga said the foreign response to the Namibian market has been overwhelming, with interest from international tour operators and accommodation establishments which had never before thought of setting foot in Namibia. Of particular interest, said Herunga, is the hunting safari excursions, with many operators at the market never having considered Namibia as among the top hunting safari destinations.
âI have just learnt that people here have always considered Kenyafor hunting safaris, a country where, unfortunately, the hunting safari market is on the decline. We are now promoting Namibiaas a hunting destination,â said Herunga.