Windhoek — The Namibia Tourism Board has downplayed the notion that investing in the Chinese tourism market is a waste of money, since Chinese tourists are not real big spenders.
NTB Chief Executive Officer, Digu //Naobeb, feels with the current financial crisis in Namibia's traditional source markets, it is only logical to look into new markets. Namibia's traditional tourism markets are mostly in the eurozone, in countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy as well as South Africa.
He said the South African market is also not a very big spending market.
"Our very source markets are being projected to be experiencing financial issues and have less disposable income for tourists to travel to Namibia," //Naobeb said.
The Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) has been marketing Namibia in China for the past three years. The industry has seen the 2009-2010 arrivals grow just by a paltry 0.4 percent. In addition, when looking at the supply side, tourism businesses have grown from 500 to 3 000 in recent years.
"How will these new businesses be sustained, looking at the current situation in our traditional markets? It is only logical and imperative to look to new markets," //Noabeb said.
The board is working closely with businesses to create demand in the domestic tourism market, in order to further diversify its market base. //Noabeb said the less than N$3 million that the NTB has spent in marketing Namibia in China is a mere "drop in the ocean".
He said so far, the NTB has only concentrated on affluent Chinese travellers in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Hong Kong, adding that the NTB roadshows in China have already started yielding results, based on the testimonies of Chinese tour operators in the country.
Joy Travel, one of the Chinese market tour operators, has since November 2011 to May 2012 been receiving Chinese tourists and has bookings until August 2012. There are also a number of unconfirmed tours that have been booked until October 2012.
Vulkan Ruine Tours received six Chinese visitors last year and have another 11 booked for this year, while Lion King Travel has 102 pax (tourist passenger or a client) in total and is still expecting three confirmed groups from June-July 2012, varying between eight to 15 pax each group.
The tour company will host the first Chinese self-drive group by end of September 2012. The group already confirmed 12 vehicles with 42 pax. Pax is a formula used by tourism professionals to refer to a passenger or a client.
"Namibia never had Chinese self-drive tourists before, so we really want to make a great impression this time, also to open this market," said Vicky Law from Lion King Travel, in a feedback response to the NTB.
Puye Haufiku from Okaume Travel did not attend the last trade fair in China. However, as a result of the three trade fairs that she attended in 2008, 2009 and 2010, she still receives bookings from some of the agents that she met in China.
In 2011, Okaume Travel received 74 Chinese tourists and in 2012, it received 44 up until now. In addition, the travel group has three confirmed bookings for a group of 12 pax in August, six pax in August and again 12 pax in September 2012.
"If I have to be totally honest, had it not been for my Chinese clients in 2008/9, I would have struggled a bit during these two years, but with the Chinese I always had tours running on a monthly basis," Haufiku related.
In 2009, the group received 154 Chinese tourists in total, which she said could be confirmed with the Namibia Wildlife Resorts, Kalahari Sands and the Swakopmund Entertainment Centre.
"I plan to attend the China International Travel Mart (CITM) this year because Chinese tourism business is good. One must just know how to work with them, since they travel very differently to Europeans and the way the agents in China arrange their tours is also different to what agents in Europe do," she said.
The NTB is working on a Strategic Plan to review focus on various destinations.
With money from the Millennium Challenge Account-Namibia, the NTB is looking at North America, as well as other SADC countries such as Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe.