5 October 2012

Namibia: Poor Service Knocks Tourism

Windhoek — Namibia's service rating is alarming and the tourism industry is hurting, it emerged yesterday at a tourism seminar in Windhoek.

Unless things improve, Namibia could soon lose its competitive edge to other African countries offering the same attractions and features but with better service delivery.

Even though the country's tourism industry is highly rated, and has scooped many international awards, Namibia still lags behind in service delivery, which is one of the important pillars of the tourism industry. Available scores indicate that treatment of guests at first point of contact is rated four out of ten, service at accommodation establishments is also rated four out of ten, while the total delivery of service in the industry is rated seven.

"We seriously need to sit down and ask ourselves how we will solve this problem. If we even lack or ignore service delivery in other sectors, it will be hard to improve it in the tourism industry," the Minister of Tourism Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah told the seminar on "Service Delivery in the Hospitality and Tourism Industry."

The Polytechnic of Namibia, in conjunction with the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and the Indonesian Embassy, organised the high-level seminar.

Nandi-Ndaitwah urged the industry to identify the causes of the lack of service delivery, as well as the poor customer care and to implement solutions without delay.

During the seminar it was also noted that part of the reason for poor service is the fact that Namibians "do not own their territory and easily back off" from challenges.

Compared to people in other tourism destinations, Namibians are not very jovial people, are very passive and not so inviting, which are all qualities that tourists could easily interpret as "lack of service".

However, with other African destinations offering the same types of tourism products as Namibia, excellent service delivery could be the only drawing card for Namibia to become competitive.

Namibia will host the Adventure Travel and Tourism Association Summit, in October 2013, and that is why serious efforts are needed to create a lasting impression on the delegates who will attend the summit.

Nandi-Ndaitwah said service delivery is not always well understood and implemented, that is why there is always room for improvement in service delivery to increase the country's competitiveness.

"This has serious implications for the tourism industry - we therefore need to ensure that existing and new entrants in the sector at all levels have the necessary understanding of what a service culture entails and why it is necessary for the sector," the minister said.

Among the factors contributing to poor service delivery are the absence of a culture of rendering service, failure to understand the essence of customer service, poorly trained staff and employing unqualified staff to cut costs.

Indonesia has realised the importance of excellent service delivery and is rated among tourism destinations with a very high standard of service delivery.

The Indonesian Ambassador to Namibia, Agustinus Sumartono, said service delivery is one of the key factors in the development of the tourism industry in any country.

"The tourism industry is not driven by the looks of hotels, but by its people," the ambassador said.

Last year, Indonesia attracted more than 7 million tourists and US$8.5 billion and all because of the country's excellent service delivery, customer service and attractive tourism products.

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