For so long regarded as a holiday destination and a ‘poor cousin’ to South Africa, Namibia may not have the glitz and glamour of Africa’s other prominent business travel destinations, but it’s a solid performer, with Windhoek leading the way.
Namibians are the beneficiaries of a stable and legislated democracy, and whilst the country might not make any waves on the global stage, it’s predictable and prosperous. With excellent air connectivity and modern infrastructure, this sparsely-populated country is increasingly drawing corporate investors and canny entrepreneurs. Contributing to this expansion is a focus by the Namibian government on diversifying an economy that’s long been dependent on exporting raw materials. The other economic pillars are tourism, agriculture and fisheries, whilst there’s a renewed focus on manufacturing.
Business Travel Activity
Credit to Air Namibia, as it’s continued to add new routes through 2012, starting in March with the announcement that from May, it would fly from Cape Town via Windhoek to the following African destinations: Harare, Zimbabwe; Gaborone, Botswana and Ondjiva, Angola. All of these new flights were also available from Johannesburg.
Air Namibia also put in an order for two new Airbus A319 aircraft. The airline already operates two leased A319s on regional routes, and two A340-300 aircraft on its international route between Windhoek and Frankfurt. May brought the news that Air Namibia plans to become an independent profit-making airline by 2016. This year’s additional routes will also contribute significantly in strengthening the Namibian economy and existing bilateral business relationships of the three countries involved, as well as the SADC region.
Hosea Kutako International Airport, situated 48 kilometres east of Windhoek, is the main gateway with flights to domestic, regional and international destinations. “It’s small and really quite charming,” says Trevor Ward, MD of W Hospitality Group. “The little departure lounge is right next to the apron, so you know what’s going on.”
“As it’s nearly 50 kilometres to the city centre, I would suggest renting a car, if you’re doing business in Windhoek,” says Bruce Page-Wood, Peermont’s Chief Operating Officer in Botswana.
“It’s a small airport by South African standards, but it’s very easy to find your way around the facility,” says Sonja Botma, Sales Manager: Avis Rent A Car Namibia. “They’re a bit slow at customs and a bit unfriendly, but don’t be discouraged by this.”
Eros Airport, in downtown Windhoek, is a secondary airport and an important hub for air charter traffic. Over 350 airstrips are dotted across Namibia, allowing charter aircraft to quickly and easily access remote parts. Self-drive is a good option, thanks to Namibia’s mostly well-maintained road network and a good selection of international and local car hire companies, offering a range of vehicles well suited to Namibia’s harsh terrain.
Windhoek is the largest and the capital city, and enjoys a quaint cafe culture. The tourism industry is centred on the coastal holiday town of Swakopmund, whilst Walvis Bay is the centre of the fisheries industry.
Citizens from the following African countries are exempt from visa requirements: Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe. All others must consult their local embassy or consulate.
Cell phone coverage is provided by Mobile Telecommunications Ltd (MTC) and Cell One through their GSM network. All major towns in Namibia are covered, as well as most portions of the national highway. International roaming agreements with more than 218 networks in 102 countries are in place. But, signal strength varies across the country.
The big brands that enjoy a presence in Windhoek are Hilton, Sun International and Legacy Hotels & Resorts, whilst there is also a fair smattering of much smaller boutique hotels. “The two main hotels in the centre of town are the Hilton and the Kalahari Sands,” says Ward. “The Hilton is clean and modern, but needs to shape up on its service standards. Kalahari Sands is located in the middle of a shopping mall, and is a little shabby, I think.”
“I’ve stayed at the Hilton and found it to be very clean and comfortable,” says Abdul Aziz Mangera, Business Development Manager Southern Africa: Lufthansa. “It’s a real business person’s hotel.”
“For me, it’s the Hilton, Kalahari Sands and the Safari Hotel. All are located quite centrally and are perfectly suited for business travel,” says Botma.
“The best place to stay is the newish 5-star Hilton,” says Page-Wood. “The Hilton Executive Floor lounge offers high quality snacks and a comfortable environment in which to hold business meetings.”
Golf If you can make time, try Omeya, the new golf estate, 15 minutes south of Windhoek. It’s a luxurious residential golf estate, with the course designed by design guru Peter Matkovich. Alternatively, Legacy’s Windhoek Country Club is another track worth trying.
Medical services are of a high standard, but are restricted to main towns and cities. Emergencies or accidents that occur in remote areas do attract a high cost when transport to the main towns is required. The north of Namibia, including Etosha National Park, is a malaria area. Travellers are advised to take the necessary prophylaxis and carry insect repellent.
“I just think that Namibia is fantastic and, having travelled to a few African cities for work, Windhoek is the best African city for business travel,” says Richard Bownes, Technical Sales Manager: Bitek Feed Science.
“Not the most dynamic of cities is Windhoek, and it can be a bit claustrophobic after a few days,” says Ward. “But, Joe’s Beer House is definitely worth a visit, if only for the atmosphere – and the beer and food get good reviews.”
Population: 2.3 million
Time zone: GMT+2
Plugs: Three-prong round
Dialling code: +264
Currency: Namibian Dollar and SA Rand. Exchange rate: US$1=8.7NAD
Language: Predominantly English and German
Belvedere – belvedere-boutiquehotel.com
Hilton Windhoek – hilton.com
Hotel Heinitzburg – heinitzburg.com
Hotel Safari – safarihotelsnamibia.com
Hotel Thule – hotelthule.com
Kalahari Sands – suninternational.com
Safari Court – safarihotelsnamibia.com
The Olive – theolive-namibia.com
Windhoek Country Club – windhoek.co.za
Access to Africa – access-to-africa.com
Carlson Wagonlit – carlsonwagonlit.com
Club Travel – clubcorporatetravel.co.za
Harvey World – harveyworld.co.za
HRG – hrgworldwide.com
Tourvest – tourvest.co.za
Uniglobe – uniglobetravel.mu