Due to the relaxation of travel restrictions globally, events in the travel and tourism industry are beginning to unfold in Africa. In Namibia, the 2022 HAN Tourism Trade Forum (HTTF) ran for two days (2 – 3 June) at The Weinberg Hotel, Windhoek. HAN is the hospitality association of Namibia.
It was hosted as the final part of the annual multi-faceted HAN activities program and follows a successful Congress and Tourism Gala in Luederitz in February this year.
“The HTTF is aimed at providing a convenient platform for HAN members and other tourism related service providers to present themselves and engage with invited tour operators, agents, and other key partners in the travel trade, to talk about products, prices and procedures,” said Gitta Paetzold, the association’s CEO.
This year, in particular, the two-day closed and tourism stakeholder-specific exchange of views and ideas in a Business-to-business format aimed to reconnect tourism stakeholders face-to-face, after two long years of being hidden behind screens and locked up spaces.
“Unlocking New Horizons”, the theme for the HAN Congress in 2022, helped unlock some of the amazing opportunities for growth and new tourism products, especially in southern Namibia. The HTTF aims at looking beyond these horizons by providing a convenient platform for the Namibian travel industry and its partners to discuss issues of interest and concern. Issues include rates, policies, coordination, and relationship building, as well as brainstorming about innovative new tourism products for this southern African gem of a travel destination.
Paetzold said that this year, a maximum number of participating delegates presented a wide variety and good representation of the Namibian tourism accommodation and community tourism sector, conveniently gathered at one venue over two days for valuable networking and trade partnership building.
“Added to the mix were Qatar Airways, returning with scheduled flights to Namibia later this month and keen to reconnect with the Namibian travel trade, as well as FlyNamibia, the Namibian airline that in April introduced its scheduled Safari flights to some key tourism destinations within Namibia, in addition to scheduled flights to major towns across the country and Johannesburg in South Africa,” she said.
Due to the ever-increasing need to keep abreast of technological advances, two tech- companies also presented innovative ways of communication and e-payment models for tourism, under the “Payment for Africa” banner.
She noted the issues discussed during the B2B engagements were determined by participating and engaging tourism partners, but it is clear that pricing and tourism supply chain relationships are important. Namibians are also keen to ensure that the tourism product ultimately put out in the international market meets and exceeds the wishes and demands of the international travel community eager to return to or explore new desirable travel destinations.
Noting that the success of the event and by extension the future of industry supply chain relationships to a large extent depend on the debates, dialogues, suggestions, and decisions made at such tourism networking events. HAN is humbled by the fact that so many within the Namibian travel trade have made use of the platform to engage and build on the Namibian tourism product.
Visiting partners not only included travel agents, consultants, and operators, but also representatives from the public sector keen to contribute to the public-private partnership needed to position Namibia as a key player on international platforms.
Paetzold observed that from the first day of the event, it became clear that delegates and participants, long deprived of this personal face-to-face contact and networking, were relieved and delighted to be able to reconnect with business partners in person. Adding that there was also a buzz and positive spirit as the traders went into the first sessions.
“Although everyone had gone to great lengths during the 2 years of Covid-related contact restrictions to establish and maintain virtual connections, the HTTF once again proved that personal contact is so much more efficient and valuable in building business partnerships”.
She further said that, after a 2-year break, the tradition of bringing together under one roof the tourism stakeholders for business negotiations at the HTTF, an initiative HAN started in 1999, almost had a celebratory spirit. That was befitting to the reality, that HAN as a tourism organisation has entered its 35th year of existence.
“The challenges posed by the severe impact the pandemic had on the travel and tourism sector in particular, and lessons to be learnt from this crisis formed another set of debates to be had, given preparedness for the “new normality” including continued demands for special hygiene and other social contact requirements. As well as resilience factors to built into future partnerships and processes,” she said.
Tourism is everyone’s business, the success of which depends on strong and trusted partnerships of the tourism service providers who share the responsibility of preparing and positioning Namibia as a travel destination of choice.
Business sessions such as the HTTF aim to set the stage for this professional engagement, HAN is keen to play its part in ensuring that the Namibian tourism industry is set and ready to shine on the global travel stage.