Namibia: NWR Loses N$174 Million As Covid-19 Destroys Tourism

The decimation of the regional and international tourism industry by lockdowns and travel restrictions was the main reason Namibia Wildlife Resorts suffered a massive loss of about N$174 million during the 2019/20 financial year.

In presenting its results to government as its sole shareholder, NWR chairperson Leonard Iipumbu said, "During the financial year 2019/20, we faced our greatest challenges as an organisation. The significant milestone of our first-ever profit of N$22 million since the establishment of the organisation and other financial gains made in 2018/2019 were wiped out due to Covid-19. However, to sustain its operations, which resulted in it not retrenching or reducing its employees' salaries, except for its board's allowances and senior management salaries, NWR needed to be innovative to survive".

"Therefore, we were the first organisation to offer our establishments to the government as isolation facilities. We must say this was an arrangement few tourism companies were looking at during that period," said Iipumbu.

"Additionally, we paid special attention to our domestic market, which resulted in us offering a discounted rate of N$600 per room from May up until September 2020. That was a significant discount on our normal rack rates. Through this effort, we were able to keep the business going and provide a much-needed service to the nation. We also launched a new tour package that we envision will be one of the cornerstones of our future," Iipumbu added.

From a cost-cutting perspective, NWR signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Namibia Public Workers Union (NAPWU). The MOU resolved, amongst others, to suspend salary increments for the financial period 2019/20, suspend normal overtime, Sunday and public holiday payments, and other allowances and benefits with effect from 27 March 2020.

Additionally, it also resolved to place a moratorium on external recruitments to ensure the company's wage bill remained manageable. NWR also introduced a voluntary separation initiative, which 130 staff members took up. These efforts were aimed at helping it reduce its employee costs.

NWR managing director Matthias Ngwangwama noted, "During the period under review, the Namibia Wildlife Resorts Hospitality Institute (NWR Hi) was successfully established. In collaboration with the National Training Authority, NWR's training arm (NWR Hi) was operationalised in 2020 and apprenticeship scholarships were awarded to 80 apprentices sourced from all of Namibia's 14 regions for the period 2020-2023".

Furthermore, in appreciating the role the media played during the financial year, Ngwangwama stated that "the negative media reports that characterized us in the past, also significantly reduced under review.

A positive media tonality index (positive media reports exceeding negative reports) was achieved in 2020. At one stage, the company was ranked in the 6th place in terms of positive media coverage in 2020 by NamMedia monitoring agency during the year".

On his part, public entreprises minister Leon Jooste thanked the company board and management for having done relatively well in coping with the disastrous effects of Covid-19 on the company in relation to industry trends.

NWR's held its AGM on 29 April 2021 in compliance with the Public Enterprise Act 2019. During the AGM, government was represented by public enterprises minister Jooste and the newly introduced environment deputy minister, Heather Sibungo.

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