Gondwana looking forward
Gys Joubert, the CEO of Gondwana Collection Namibia, one of the leading hospitality groups in Namibia, says that the company is firmly positioned and looking positively ahead to the days post Covid-19. “We are fully aware that this crisis will not be over soon and our world will probably never be the same again, yet we choose to be positive and creative at this time, without denying the harsh reality.” The Gondwana Collection has more than twenty properties countrywide, and a team of more than a thousand employees.
Of all the industries, tourism has been hit the hardest by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has rocked the world since December last year, bringing business to a standstill. Many companies in Namibia have either been forced to retrench staff or to cut salaries. The Gondwana Collection reports that it is fortunate to currently be in a stable financial position thanks to a robust business model, conservative financial management and a strong balance sheet. It is confident that the company can sustain all of its current employees and maintain their basic income for the foreseeable future. This can obviously not be sustained indefinitely and will depend on some recovery of tourism towards the end of the year. Gys says, “We understand our role in the livelihoods of the communities in rural Namibia and in conservation in Namibia, and we will endeavor to maintain these contributions.”
He adds, “Apart from the successful business model that we have been fine-tuning for the last twenty-five years, our strength lies in our culture and values, ensuring that all Triple Bottom Line components – social commitment, financial sustainability and conservation of our natural environment – are well-balanced and satisfied. This has stood us in good stead and has placed the company in a strong position to withstand the Covid-19 storm and to create a new future for Gondwana.”
These solid foundations enable Gondwana to honour all its commitments as Covid-19 sweeps across the globe, including its commitment to the Gondwana Care Trust (supported in part by the Capricorn Group) to provide nourishment to the most vulnerable of our society, including kindergartens, orphanages, communities and senior citizen homes. It also ensures that for now the contractual agreements with the conservancies where it operates will be honoured. This contributes to the conservancies’ ability to maintain basic social and environmental conservation.
Gondwana has always valued its Namibian and South African guests, even in good times, and will continue to do so. It introduced its successful Gondwana Card approximately fifteen years ago, offering as much as fifty per cent discount (Namibians) or forty percent discount (SADC) to its some 80 000 members on accommodation and breakfast, and twenty-five per cent on dinner and activities. “This is not a once-off special, but a permanent gesture to our loyal Namibian and regional guests,” says Gys. The Gondwana properties range from camping and safari tents to a collection of attractive lodges, a hotel and an upmarket desert pod and floating river villa, providing accommodation for all tastes and budgets. At the present Stage 2 of lockdown, guests have the option of staying at the Gondwana campsites or in the well-equipped Camping2Go tented accommodation. As restrictions ease, hopefully from 2 June, the lodges will gradually reopen their doors.
According to Gys, the company is confident about moving ahead and will continue to engage with travellers on all its platforms – digital and print – to promote the unique history and nature of Namibia through storytelling and content. It will also continue promoting Namibia as a brand to the outside world and is collaborating with the Namibian Tourism Board on the initiative ‘Namibia is waiting for you.’ The Gondwana video-clip ‘Namibia – a land of Dreams’, recently aired, has already reached half a million people worldwide. The newest lodge in the Collection, Etosha King Nehale, is set to open to visitors on 10 June, making this area north of Etosha easily accessible and providing a springboard into the Kunene, Kavango and Zambezi regions. This will also give tourists exposure to the rich and colourful culture of the Aawambo people and help to bring tourism to the north-central regions of the country.
The Gondwana Collection Namibia continues to expand its products, especially the affordable Camping2Go properties, which have been well-received by Namibians and South Africans, in preparation for future travel. It also now offers travellers a one-stop shop for their journey through Namibia, diversifying its services with Namibia2Go (car rental), Safari2Go (tour operator) and the Cardboard Box Travel Shop (travel consultant).
Fortunately, over the last decade the company has invested in upgrading its lodges to make them more relevant, making it well-positioned for the time when tourism starts up again. The Gondwana Training Academy continues to run regular training courses for all of its employees, using this time productively and investing in the friendly and efficient Gondwana family, which it sees as paramount to the success of the company.
Catering to the needs of all of its guests – foreign, SADC and local, Gondwana Collection Namibia continues to provide quality and authentic service – and journeys that will be remembered for a lifetime. It is well-prepared for the time post Covid-19 when tourism will be different and visitors will seek a deeper, richer experience.