Population: 2.1 million
Time zone: GMT + 2 hours (summer); GMT + 1 hour (winter)
Plugs: Three-prong square
Dialling code: +264
Currency: Namibian dollar; SA Rand – $1=10.4NAD
Language: English, Afrikaans, German, Portuguese, ethnic languages
Lying along the South Atlantic Ocean, on the west coast of Africa, Namibia is a young country – it finally gained its independence in 1990. Although leisure tourism is a major source of income with its numerous game lodges and extreme sports offerings, other sectors of business make a significant contribution to GDP.
Namibia’s economy is heavily dependent on the extraction and processing of minerals for export. Mining accounts for 8% of GDP, but provides more than 50% of foreign exchange earnings. Rich alluvial diamond deposits make Namibia a primary source for gem-quality diamonds. Namibia is the world’s fourth-largest producer of uranium. Expecting higher global uranium prices, Namibia plans to double its uranium exports by 2015, as well as increase its diamond output.
Windhoek isn’t the only city of importance in Namibia, although it is the capital and the country’s largest city.
Walvis Bay is where the fishing industry is situated. It sits slightly north of the midway point of Namibia’s coastline. Its natural deep water harbour is a safe haven for ships, and the abundance of plankton in the chilly Atlantic Ocean waters draws whales relatively close to shore.
Swakopmund is a beach resort about 35 minutes’ drive north of Walvis Bay. Here, you’ll find a booming industry aimed directly at tourists. Hotels, night clubs, coffee shops and bars are sprinkled around town. You can take to the skies in a hot air balloon, or take to the sea for a cruise. There’s quad biking, sky diving and golf at the Rossmund Golf Course – one of only five desert golf courses in the world.
The other coastal town of note is Luderitz, and the mining is concentrated in the south where the gateway is Alexander Bay.
Business Travel Activity
As the national carrier, Air Namibia continues to expand its network and increase frequency plans. The airline took delivery of three new A330-200 aircraft in 2013, intended primarily for use on the long-haul route between Windhoek and Frankfurt in Germany. As part of the process, Air Namibia is retiring its old Airbus A340-300 plane, and the Airbus A330-200s are expected to reduce costs and boost revenue.
“This decision fits well with our efforts to continually strive to improve operational efficiency, as we align the services of the airline with the needs of the market, match and exceed competitor offerings, and achieve acceptable financial performance,” said Paulus Nakawa, Air Namibia’s Head of Corporate Communications.
The new planes are fitted with 30 Business Class seats and 214 Economy Class seats. The soon to be phased out A340s have 278 seats in total, comprising 32 in Business and 246 in Economy. The airline said that while larger aircraft have a lower cost per seat, all the seats must be sold for this low-cost benefit to be realised. The current average passenger load per year on the Windhoek-Frankfurt route is 220 passengers, meaning that full value of the cost per seat is not being realised as some seats go unoccupied. The Airbus A330-200 is said to be a more flexible aircraft for new routes, while also offering modern and mature aviation technology.
Air Namibia also adjusted its Frankfurt schedule early in 2013 and from 1 December to 24 June 2014 the number of frequencies will be six per week. Effective 12 January 2014, flights between Johannesburg and Windhoek will also increase from 20 to 21 per week.
On the downside, Air Namibia suspended its flights to Gaborone in Botswana in early 2013, due to low passenger volumes. The Namibian national carrier introduced the route in 2012 and initially operated three flights a week, before the flight schedule changed to include a fourth flight when Air Namibia re-arranged its network. The airline is, however, continuing the Maun route, which it says is critical for the transportation of tourists from Botswana and Namibia.
On the hotel scene, there hasn’t been much activity in Windhoek, with Hilton, Sun International and Legacy Hotels & Resorts all consolidating their positions. A Strand Hotel will open on the promenade in Swakopmund by mid-2015. The new hotel will feature restaurants, bars, sea-facing terraces and a conference centre. Preliminary seating capacities for the facility allow for 180 delegates in theatre seating, 110 delegates classroom style and 140 delegates in banquet seating.
Hosea Kutako International Airport, situated 48 kilometres east of Windhoek, is the main gateway with flights to domestic, regional and international destinations. The airport terminal offers a selection of shops and restaurants, as well as ATMs and other helpful services, including taxi and shuttle transportation to and from Windhoek.
“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.
In Windhoek, one of the most popular hotels is the landmark Windhoek Country Club, which is a Legacy Hotels and Resorts property and is situated in close proximity to Eros airport. It offers excellent business facilities and an 18-hole golf course, if of course you have time to relax, in and around your business meetings.
The other prominent hotels with big brand names are the Hilton Windhoek – the city’s first 5-star hotel – and Sun International’s Kalahari Sands and Casino.
The latter is well placed for business travellers to Windhoek. The hotel underwent a multi-million dollar refurbishment in 2011 and is once again a good choice if you prefer to stay downtown. There’s an upmarket shopping mall next to the hotel, which is close to many amenities, including public transport, and the 173 rooms offer plenty of work space and city views.
The Hilton was designed to appeal to the needs of both the corporate and leisure traveller. Modern luxury rooms offer all the mod-cons you’d expect from a global hotel chain, but the hotel is especially good when it comes to entertaining clients – there are five separate restaurants on site, including the glamorous rooftop Skybar with its city views. Function and meeting facilities can accommodate up to 250 delegates, and this is where Hilton appears to have scored.
“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 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.”
As mentioned by Botma, there’s also the Safari Hotel, which is 15 minutes from the city centre, whilst there is also a fair smattering of much smaller boutique hotels. In this space, the Olive Exclusive Boutique Hotel comes up fairly often, when preferred properties are discussed. It’s situated close to the Windhoek city centre in a quiet, peaceful area of town. The hotel blends European style with African warmth. There’s a focus on luxury lodgings, with private dining rooms, chic courtyards and a modern dining room. Satellite TV, Wi-Fi Internet access and iPod docking stations come standard.
“The Palmquell Hotel is an oasis in Windhoek where business travellers can enjoy Namibian hospitality with German precision,” says Helena Maxwell, Sales Manager for Kenya Airways South Africa. “It has large comfortable rooms with exquisite breakfasts served under the palm trees. We were also greeted warmly by the owner, as well as his rabbits and tortoises!”
As the biggest hotel group in Africa, it’s no surprise that Protea Hotels has a significant Namibian presence with 10 properties, although only two of those are situated in Windhoek – Protea Furstenhof and Protea Thuringerhof.
The rest of the Protea properties are situated in Walvis Bay, Swakopmund, Long Beach and Luderitz.
If you’re doing business in Swakopmund, then the Swakopmund Hotel & Entertainment Centre is probably your best bet. Far and away the best place for corporate travellers to stay in Swakopmund, this large hotel – there are 90 rooms – is a popular option for conferencing in Namibia’s premier holiday town. The Platform One restaurant, set in the old railway station, is good for client dinners, while everything from swimming pools to cinemas will give you options for any downtime.
Also in Swakopmund are a couple of guesthouses worth considering. Cornerstone Guesthouse is about two minutes’ walk from the town centre and about five minutes’ walk to the beach and seafront. Central Guesthouse is situated in the heart of old Swakopmund within easy walking distance of all amenities, shops, restaurants, museums, craft markets, banks and beaches. The Swakopmund Guesthouse offers four standard and seven luxury rooms, and one family suite a mere five-minute walk from the beach.
American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa are all widely accepted in Namibia. Travellers should check with their credit or debit card company for details of merchant acceptability and other services, which may be available. It’s worth noting that service stations in Namibia do not accept credit card payment for petrol.
Most African travellers to Namibia do not require a visa, but must ensure that their passport is valid for at least six months beyond the intended stay in the county, and have sufficient pages for entry and exit stamps. All visitors must also have a valid return air ticket.
A business visa is required for travellers looking for prospects to set up formal business in Namibia, exploration for business opportunities, business people attending meetings at subsidiaries of their parent companies, official government visits, conference attendance, corporate events (not work) and meetings for which no remuneration is received, attending short training courses (not more than 90 days), sports events, expositions and trade fairs.
Mobile phones are very common and run on the GSM network, using the same frequency as Europe and the rest of Africa. There are Internet cafes in Windhoek, Swakopmund and Opuwo, and hostels often have access as well. Many of the hotels offer free Wi-Fi.
The northern part of Namibia is in a malaria-risk zone, so consult a doctor before leaving and take appropriate malaria precautions when travelling to these areas.
Compulsory vaccination: yellow fever (dependent on country of origin/stop-over).
Recommended vaccinations: Hepatitis A&B, rabies, typhoid, tetanus and polio.
Namibia’s medical system is modern and capable of attending to whatever needs the traveller may have. However, this is largely restricted to the main cities.
The majority of travel to Namibia is without incident. Theft may take place from cars at petrol stations, so travellers are advised not to leave valuables in their cars.
Pick-pockets are also prevalent in Windhoek. Avoid using taxis (never alone), and rather use hotel transport. The Caprivi Strip near Angola should be avoided due to landmines from the Angolan Civil War.
Despite the vast distances in Namibia, most people get around by land, and not air. Namibia’s roads are very good with primary routes paved and secondary routes of well-graded gravel. An all-wheel drive vehicle is not necessary except on tertiary roads and the Skeleton Coast.
“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.”
If you’re a golfer and you can make time, try Omeya, the fairly 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.
Kagiso Dumasi – Commercial Manager Africa: BCD Travel
Hosea Kutako International Airport is the hub of the national airline, with Air Namibia providing about 18 direct flights daily (currently flying direct to Angola, Germany, Ghana, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe).
The airport underwent a refurbishment in 2009. It is simple, well organised and clean, and the immigration officers are quite friendly and efficient.
English is spoken throughout Namibia (it is the country’s official language and is also the medium of instruction in most schools), although in many urban areas Afrikaans (similar to Dutch) is prevalent, as 50% of the Namibian population speaks Afrikaans.
The visa requirements for business excludes those travellers who are hired and remunerated in their countries but perform work in Namibia. Should you be travelling on business to work with a local company or counterpart, you may be required to apply for a work permit before arriving.
Windhoek is a relaxed and functional city with an array of hotels and restaurants. The main business district is concentrated near the newish Hilton hotel (opened in 2011). Kalahari Sands and Protea Hotel Furstenhof are within walking distance of each other. Complimentary Wi-Fi is available at these hotels. The Hilton offers great meeting facilities, a health club and business centre.
Business travellers from neighbouring countries will feel at home in Windhoek, as familiar brands, banks and retail outlets are in existence.
The city of Windhoek leaves you with a feeling of nostalgia, particularly if you are accustomed to travelling in much bigger and more populous cities.
Being a German colony between 1884 and 1915 has left a strong German influence on the country, even today. Much of the architecture in Swakopmund and Luderitz is reminiscent of 19th century Germany – inner town buildings sport domes, towers, turrets, embellished gables and bay windows. There are a number of German restaurants in Windhoek, and Windhoek beer is brewed in compliance with the Reinheitsegebot, the German Purity Law of 1516.
Belvedere – www.belvedere-boutiquehotel.com
Casa Blanca – www.casablancahotelnamibia.com
Heinitzburg – www.heinitzburg.com
Hilton Windhoek – www.hilton.com
Hotel Thule – www.hotelthule.com
Jordani B&B – www.jordanibb.com
Kalahari Sands – www.suninternational.com
Moni – www.monihotel.com
Olive – www.theolive-namibia.com
Palmquell – www.palmquell.com
Protea Furstenhof – www.proteahotels.com
Protea Thuringerhof – www.proteahotels.com
Roof of Africa – www.roofofafrica.com
Safari – www.safarihotelsnamibia.com
Uhland – www.hoteluhland.com
Vertigo Boutique – www.vertigoboutiquehotel.com
Windhoek CC – www.windhoekcountryclub.co.za
Access-to-Africa – www.access-to-africa.com
American Express – www.americanexpresstravel.co.za
CWT – www.carlsonwagonlit.com
HRG – www.hrgworldwide.com
Suretravel – www.suretravel.co.za
Travel with Flair – www.travelwithflair.co.za
Uniglobe – www.uniglobetravel.mu
XL Travel – www.xltravel.co.za